Muslims, who constitute 19.3 per cent of UP's population, as per the 2011 census, play a key role in deciding who occupies the throne in the state, being the largest minority community. Although Muslims had voted for the SP in 2012, they are now disillusioned with the ruling party after Muzaffarnagar riots and the Dadri lynching incident. This time they are expected to switch sides to Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, as they no longer feel secure under Akhilesh Yadav's rule. The cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha elections in June last year was a major indicator of this shift in stance of the Muslims. The Congress had suspended six of its MLAs for going against the party whip. Three of those were Muslims and are believed to have voted for the BSP. Even SP had suspended four MLAs on similar charges, one of them being a Muslim.
Currently, in the 403-member UP Assembly, the ruling SP has 229 MLAs, BSP 80, BJP 41 and the Congress 29. These figures further consolidate Behan ji's claim over power in UP, being the main opposition party and second largest in the state. Her party, the BSP also enjoys decent support from the Dalit community of the state, which according to the 2011 census is sizeable, forming 20.5 per cent of the total population of UP, which is highest among all the states of the country. This ideally means that whichever party will be able to bring Dalit and Muslim voters under its ambit, will emerge as the ruling party in the 2017 UP Assembly election. Hypothetically speaking, the stage seems set for Mayawati's return to power in UP.
Apart from Dalits and Muslims, Mayawati is sparing no efforts in wooing Brahmins, who comprise of 13 per cent of the state's population. Today's BSP is a far cry from its initial days of 2002, when the party used to target upper castes with cynical and penetrative sloganeering. The most common being: "Tilak, Tarazu aur Talwar, inko maaro jutey chaar." Tilak here means Brahmins, Tarazu signifies Baniyas and Talwar indicates towards Thakurs, all being upper castes of the state.
Interestingly, by 2007, the same slogan was mellowed down to: "Tilak, Tarazu aur Talwar, inko pujo jamkar yaar." The trend further continues through 2017 with a more recent slogan: "Brahmin shankh bajayega, hathi badhta jayega." Behan ji had expelled Sanjay Bharti, a core cadre Dalit leader of her party in June last year after he had made objectionable remarks against Brahmins in his Facebook post. It is quite possible that Brahmins and upper castes who traditionally vote for the BJP, might decide to side with the BSP this time around.
Another aspect of these Assembly polls is that the BSP has a clear advantage over BJP due to the latter not projecting any candidate for chief ministership, while the BSP has a consensual candidate in the form of its supremo Behan Mayawati. Her stature within her party is mammoth, paramount and virtually unquestionable. Mayawati's getting support from Muslims, Dalits and Brahmins will most certainly ensure her victory, like it had in the 2007 Assembly polls. She lost in 2012 because the Muslim voters abandoned her party and instead supported Mulayam Singh's SP.
Another major factor contributing towards more support for Mayawati this time is the internal feud within the SP, which has left the voters confused to some extent. Only time will tell who crosses the finishing line in Uttar Pradesh.
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