BSP’s Game: 2014 vs 2017

A simple average of opinion polls thus far point to a crushing defeat for the INC in the 2014 General Elections. But it’s hardly existential a threat and the party has enough resources to survive such an adverse result. After 10 years of heading the ruling coalition, it’s probably healthy even. However, the poll projections could turn existential for one party — the BSP.

The BSP has not been in power anywhere since losing the UP Assembly elections in 2012. The party, somewhat drawing a parallel with the AIADMK, has never really shared power for any reasonable length of time in Delhi. Whether that has anything to do with both parties being headed by strong willed and self-made single women is for a clever feminist in a Sociology department to decipher. For the purpose of this analysis, let’s consider Ms Mayawati the politician and BSP the political phenomenon.

The BSP’s electoral success has two components — a base Dalit vote that’s then topped up by votes from some Muslims and some upper castes. Naturally, dominant OBCs cannot and will not vote the BSP; the party’s animosity against them, for valid reasons, is its raison d’etre. A BJP resurgence in the state of Uttar Pradesh means it takes away the smattering of upper caste vote which would have pushed the BSP to pole position in a first past the pole system. A BJP resurgence also means a consolidation of the Muslim vote, for which the BSP is the third choice behind the SP and INC. Thus, a BJP resurgence in UP simply means the BSP gets reduced a caste party again with no possible catchment from others groups.

Unlike the BSP and SP, the BJP has a vote base that’s diffused. A diffused vote base, much to the chagrin of political parties, has an exponentiation effect both on the upswing and the downswing. This makes the upswing in one cycle easily replicable in the next few cycles — for all the diffused base needs is viability. If that happens for the BJP in 2017 following its 2014 showing, the BSP will be reduced to jostling for third place.

Ms Mayawati is far too smart to have not known this. The options available to her, if the opinion polls are true, are

  • Strike a bargain with the BJP so that the party goes easy on the 2017 Assembly election. That’s clearly a fools bargain for the BSP.  No political party would surrender an advantage after its accrued. Ms Mayawati in fact knows this better than anyone else given her own insistence on not honouring power sharing agreements of the past.
  • Strike a pre-poll alliance with the INC. This seems a far better option for the BSP since the INC is on a downward trajectory and is not really a threat in UP in the foreseeable future. Further the INC will only be glad to enter into such an alliance to stop the BJP juggernaut. If this happens, the smattering of others that the BSP needs will be readily available. By getting to over 30% of the vote-share with pockets of strength, this combination will easily move to the top position if the current projections are taken seriously.

Further, such a victory by the BSP+INC will throw such a serious spanner in the works of the BJP project. It’d dent Mr Modi’s tally seriously; not just in UP but even in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh where the BSP+INC alliance would tighten the race quite dramatically. If this were to come true and Mr Modi’s bid in 2014 fails, it will make the BJP seem unviable in the 2017 UP Assembly elections as well; because of the voter’s assumptions on diffusion.

In such a situation, the only reason that the BSP is not allying with the INC already can be that the internal polls of the party reveal something that we don’t know. Or, the INC is too stupid to agree. Or, the BSP has too much pride.

2 thoughts on “BSP’s Game: 2014 vs 2017

  1. Rakesh Iyer

    I think the answer to your argument, quite likely, is the one given by Dr. Sandeep Shastri in one of the Election Tracker shows on CNN-IBN: BSP believes that while its vote will get transferred to Congress candidates and can help them win, Congress votes will not get transferred to BSP candidates and that they won’t benefit from this. According to Dr. Shastri, BSP has believed in this reasoning based on its past experiences, which is why it generally prefers post-poll and not pre-poll alliances.

  2. Puram Post author

    That’s not strictly true if the alternative is the BJP as much as it is for the SP.

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