Wednesday, January 26, 2022

State where Kanshi Ram came from can’t explain BSP slide

In the 1997 elections, the BSP secured 6.37 per cent of the vote, managing to win just one seat out of the 67 that it contested.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | Ropar/banga/phillaur |
January 29, 2017 3:00:35 am
bsp, kanshi ram, mayawati, bsp up elections, up polls bsp, mayawati up polls, india news Everyone cites a different reason for why the Mayawati-led BSP hasn’t done well in successive elections in Punjab in the last 25 years. (Express Photos by Pramod Adhikari)

With a Dalit population of almost 32 per cent and with the place that late Kanshi Ram came from, one might have expected his BSP to be a serious player in Punjab. However, the party is now a pale shadow of what it was in 1992, when it had its highest tally of nine seats. This time, the Mayawati-led BSP has fielded candidates in 111 of the state’s 117 seats but no one expects it to cause any major upset. The party remains a strong contender in Uttar Pradesh but in Punjab, its trajectory has gone only downhill since 1992. As a proportion of the population, Punjab has the highest SC concentration among all states.

Despite meeting and talking to voters and Dalit leaders and contestants across the Doaba region, which has most of the reserved seats out of the total 34, the answers aren’t easy to come by. Ranging from Mayawati’s lack of interest in building the party in the state, to allegations of her cutting deals with mainstream political parties to use her vote-bank to help them come to power, to her resistance to allowing any Dalit leader to emerge in the state, everyone cites a different reason for why the BSP hasn’t done well in successive elections in Punjab in the last 25 years. First the figures: After the high of winning nine seats out of the 105 that it contested in the 1992 elections, securing 16.32 per cent of the votes, the BSP failed to win even a single seat in the 2012 Vidhan Sabha elections despite fielding candidates in all 117 constituencies. Its vote share in 2012 was also its second-lowest ever – just 4.29 per cent, with a whopping 109 of the total 117 candidates failing to save their deposit.

In the 1997 elections, the BSP secured 6.37 per cent of the vote, managing to win just one seat out of the 67 that it contested. As many as 45 of its candidates lost their security deposits. In the 2002 elections, which the Congress won, the BSP had contested 100 seats, failing to win even one. While 89 of its nominees forfeited their deposit, its vote share was 5.69 per cent. In the 2007 elections, which brought the SAD-BJP alliance back to power, the BSP had fielded 115 candidates and again drew a blank. Its vote share was also its lowest-ever – 4.13 per cent, with only two of its candidates managing to save their deposits.

Satnam Singh Kainth, a former state unit president of the party, is now contesting on a Congress ticket from Banga, “When Kanshi Ram formed DS4 [Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti, BSP’s earlier avatar] there was idealism attached to it. We thought we would be able to speed up the uplift of Dalit samaj. That was his vision, which we all shared,” Kainth says. “But, after our good showing in 1992, there was no thought on how to build the party. I suggested to Kanshi Ram that we should align with like-minded parties to consolidate our vote-bank. He didn’t listen and later got me out of the party. Mayawati is a big leader but doesn’t have the time for Punjab. I don’t think they realise that Punjab and UP are completely different in voter outlook. The party let down the voters.”

Incidentally, the current president of the party’s state unit, Avtar Singh Karimpuri, is the candidate in Phillaur, where he is locked in a tough fight against Congress’s Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary, son of Lok Sabha MP Santokh Chaudhary, Baldev Singh Khaira of SAD and Saroop Singh Kadiana of AAP. “We know we have had upsets in the past. But this election will be our comeback. Wait and watch,” says a local BSP leader, Sarwan Singh. But, Singh doesn’t know if Mayawati has any plan to campaign in the state, acknowledging that her focus remains UP. Sitting in the drawing room of her home, which is part of a memorial to her late brother constructed a few years agao, Kanshi Ram’s sister Swaran Kaur, who is also the caretaker of the memorial, blames Mayawati for the party’s failure in the state.

“Mayawati corrupted all Punjab leaders from our community who had some calibre. Whoever didn’t fall in line or questioned her diktat was purged as a lesson for others. She is responsible [for the party’s sliding fortunes],” Kaur tells The Indian Express. Incidentally, Mayawati had inaugurated the memorial; a marble plate on the entry gate is proof of that. The room where we sit also has a picture of Mayawati with her guards – Kaur says that is so that the family doesn’t forget she is the “biggest enemy”. “Even in our village, nobody votes for Veerji’s party [BSP] any more. It is all due to Mayawati,” Kaur says.

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