How Mayawati and Owaisi can make it tough for Akhilesh in UP polls

Uttar Pradesh is witnessing a multi-tier assembly election in which the Samajwadi Party (SP) is seen as the main challenger to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while party leader Bahujan Samaj (BSP) Mayawati is Supposed to be “silent”, the Congress is fighting for its existence and the party of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi plans to become a new choice for Muslim voters.

The fight that Mayawati’s BSP and Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) are proposing in some constituencies makes UP polls multifaceted. Both parties rely on social engineering for electoral success.

The BSP derives its political power of his vote bank of Dalits and experiments when nominating other social groups trying his luck. The AIMIM believes Muslim voters as his main electorate, even if he tries to find an agreement with Bhim-Meem Dalits unit.

BSP UP IN ELECTION

In Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati stood alone in the assembly elections. She tried to concoct a new combination of Dalit-Muslim-Brahmin castes while reaching out to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the Uttar Pradesh elections.

She hit back at the accusation of being ‘silent’ to help the BJP with the claim of a ‘surprise result’ in a 2007 repeat. Her party had won a majority in 2007 with highly controversial Dalit-Brahmin social engineering .

Also Read: UP Elections 2022: BJP Strong But SP Pockets May Prove Tough in Phase 3

In 2022, the BSP presented around 90 candidates from the Dalit and Muslim communities. In fielding Dalit candidates, the BSP may not be ahead of other parties, given that 84 of the seats in the UP Assembly are reserved for the Scheduled Caste (SC) community.

Its continued preference for Muslim candidates over other mainstream parties in Uttar Pradesh could impact the prospects of the Samajwadi party. Mayawati had fielded about 100 Muslim candidates in 2017, when she transitioned from Dalit-Brahmin social engineering to Dalit-Muslim social engineering. She failed at the time, but Mayawati continued to cultivate Muslims as her vote bank.

Besides Dalits and Muslims, Mayawati reached out to Brahmins by repeatedly referring to the 2007 elections and leaving top BSP leader Satish Chandra Misra to lead Uttar Pradesh’s election campaign for a long time. Moreover, she gave tickets to the leaders of the backward and OBC communities monitored by the BJP and the Samajwadi party.

The BSP’s focus on the OBC vote bank is adding to the challenge of Samajwadi party chairman Akhilesh Yadav as he seeks a return to power in Lucknow. OBCs and Muslims are the main vote banks of the Samajwadi party.

OWAISI FACTOR

The speech of the Owaisi factor in an election for the Assembly that his AIMIM contests have become a norm. Although AIMIM had limited success in elections, Owaisi drew large crowds to its rallies. Uttar Pradesh, where AIMIM contests around 100 seats, has also seen Owaisi create a buzz.

In Uttar Pradesh, Owaisi opted for his Bihar formula of allying himself with small caste-based parties and declaring a CM candidate. Owaisi fielded at least eight Hindu candidates while focusing on Muslim voters in UP polls.

Read also: Explained | Rise of small parties and their electoral importance in UP polls

Owaisi’s candidates are likely to impact western Uttar Pradesh, where more than 35 constituencies have over 30% Muslim voters. In nine constituencies, Muslims represent more than 50% of voters.

Owaisi’s AIMIM emerged as a new option for Muslim voters in Bihar, where the community would have no choice but to vote for the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a party strongly backed by the Yadavs, while like the Samajwadi party in Uttar Pradesh. Muslim UP voters are generally considered to be Samajwadi party voters or BSP supporters in constituencies where Mayawati nominates community candidates.

In constituencies where Mayawati and Owaisi fielded Muslim candidates, the SP-RLD alliance led by Akhilesh Yadav would face a daunting challenge.

CONGRESS

The Congress fielded more than 60 Muslim candidates in Uttar Pradesh’s elections, in which the party is fighting alone. In 2017, the Congress was a junior partner of the Samajwadi Party and finished with seven seats. Later, he saw his MPs join the BJP.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has led the party’s campaign in UP polls while saying her efforts may not bring her to power in 2022 but set the stage for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and the 2027 elections to the Assembly.

Read also: Increased participation in political exclusion: the women factor in UP polls

Congress is likely to garner more votes than in 2017 as it contests 402 seats compared to 144 five years ago. But the more votes Priyanka Gandhi gets in Congress, the harder it will become for Akhilesh Yadav, given that both are focused on backward and Dalit communities. Priyanka Gandhi also attempted to create a female constituency for Congress.

It appears from the election campaigns and the distribution of tickets that the SP, the BSP, the Congress and the AIMIM rely heavily on backcaste Muslim-Dalit voters. They seem to be in more competition with each other than the BJP, which enjoys the support of upper-caste voters and recipients of Narendra Modi government’s welfare schemes.

This pair of electoral contests could be an “election within an election” challenge that Akhilesh Yadav may have to overcome to achieve his comeback dream.

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