The Narendra Modi-led BJP wave has left many political parties reeling, but perhaps the most surprising has been the demolition of the Bahujan Samaj Party. Party chief Mayawati has blamed the wipeout on support to the UPA government; but has the feisty former chief minister lost touch with her vote bank?
The BSP, which had 21 seats in the 15th Lok Sabha, and was expected to do well this time by political pundits, even failed to open its account.
In most of the Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, the BSP has done well - coming second to the BJP and has garnered 4.1 percent of the votes, third highest after the BJP and the Congress. However, its margin of defeat to the Bharatiya Janata Party has been high in almost every seat - by over a lakh and half.
Mayawati, addressing a press conference a day after the results were out, said her party suffered in the election for supporting the UPA government as the people were angry at "the policies and failures" of the Congress-led coalition. She also claimed "communal polarisation" in Uttar Pradesh made most of the Muslims side with the Samajwadi Party and most of the upper castes and OBCs with the BJP.
Senior BSP leaders declined to take calls from IANS after the poll drubbing. Senior journalist Ajoy Bose, who has written 'Behenji: A Political Biography of Mayawati', says the party did garner 20 percent of the votes in UP. But the votes were not concentrated in any single constituency to translate to a win, like in the case of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and vice president Rahul Gandhi or Mulayam Singh Yadav and his immediate family.
According to Bose, the Dalit and Muslim vote bank, which the BSP was relying on, "did not happen". "The Muslims were unable to organize themselves this time; they did not vote for the BJP, but they got confused between the BSP, the Congress and to some extent AAP (Aam Aadmi Party)," Bose told IANS.
In addition, Modi was viewed by the electorate "to be the only alternative.. There was no other alternative at all," he added. According to Bose, the BSP is "very vulnerable, and spread very thin". But he said Mayawati would "bounce back in the assembly polls". He feels the BJP won't be able to put up anyone to "match her stature" in the state at the assembly polls. The last assembly polls were held in 2012 and the next is three years away.
"A larger problem", according to Bose, is that "Mayawati does not campaign like she used to earlier.
"She has got disconnected somehow with the people. A leader needs to connect regularly with people. Just see Modi and the public shows he holds. A leader has to have the hunger to connect."
A BSP spokesman, who did not wish to be identified "in the current circumstances", acknowledged that the election results "were a big blow" to the party. He said that the Dalit vote bank had gone to the BJP this time.
"The election saw polarization of the Hindu and Muslim votes. We kept fighting for a secular agenda. But the BJP, especially its leader Amit Shah with his communally toned speeches, completely polarized the voters," he told IANS.
The BSP had kept a low profile throughout the election campaign, unlike the high decibel campaigning of the other mainstream parties. A senior BSP functionary had told IANS during the early phase of the elections that "We will not just be king makers, we will be kings". That, however, was not to be this time.