Mayawati’s decision to not contest the Lok Sabha elections despite being the lead partner in the anti-BJP alliance with the SP and RLD in Uttar Pradesh indicates that she wants to focus her entire energy on the election campaign and strategic coordination with the BSP’s partners.
Mayawati has been elected to Lok Sabha four times — in 1989 (Bijnor), 1998, 1999, and 2004 (all from Akbarpur) — and to Rajya Sabha thrice — in 1994, 2004, and 2012. On all three occasions, she resigned before the completion of her term.
In her first electoral battle in 1985, Mayawati had contested against the Congress’s Meira Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan in a bypoll for the Bijnor seat. She lost to Meira Kumar in 1985, but entered Lok Sabha from the same seat four years later. In 1991, at the peak of Ram Temple movement, however, she lost the seat to the BJP.
Had Mayawati contested the coming Lok Sabha elections, the BJP would have marshalled all resources to confine her to her seat, essentially wrecking her plans to campaign across the state and address joint election rallies with the leaders of the SP and RLD. This may not have suited her, especially at a time when her party is fighting to slay the demons of the 2014 washout.
The BSP is contesting 38 seats, and Mayawati would want to win as many of them as she can. Scooping up a big number can open up possibilities, including being catapulted into a potentially kingmaking position in the new Lok Sabha. Doing badly, on the other hand, could doom both her and her party.
The BSP has been fighting to arrest its decline and preserve its relevance since losing the Assembly elections of 2012 — it drew a blank in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and could win only 19 seats in the 403-member UP House in 2017 — and the coming elections are its do or die moment. Mayawati can be expected to do everything she can to repeat the Opposition’s success during the Lok Sabha byelections in Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana.
Apart from UP, the BSP has struck alliances in Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well — and Mayawati would like to canvass in these states, too.
A senior BSP leader who did not want to be quoted gave a different perspective on Mayawati’s decision, linking it to the 2022 Assembly elections.
“Had she fought from any reserved seat in the coming elections, she would have certainly won with the support of the SP, RLD and Congress. In that sense, her not contesting amounts to the BSP giving up one seat. But Behenji does want to take an obligation from any of these parties. She wants to be free in 2022, when she has to sit down to discuss with the SP the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance,” the BSP leader said.
SP president Akhilesh Yadav, who had earlier said he would contest the Lok Sabha election from Kannauj, has now announced the nomination of his wife Dimple from the seat. Dimple is the sitting MP from Kannauj. Akhilesh represented the constituency in Lok Sabha from 2000 to 2012, when he became Chief Minister.
“Had Mayawati contested the Lok Sabha election and won while Akhilesh stayed away from contest, he would have been the frontrunner for the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance in 2022, and might have asked Mayawati to focus on politics in Delhi. Now, if Akhilesh ends up contesting and winning, Mayawati will have the upper hand in 2022. In fact, the primary focus of both leaders is UP,” the BSP leader said.
The BJP had an altogether different take — a senior leader from the party said the BSP chief’s decision would actually boost the BJP.
“By announcing she would not contest, Mayawati has signalled that she does not give herself any chance of becoming Prime Minister. Therefore, it is only the Congress that appears in a contest against the BJP at the national level.
And she is constantly criticising the Congress to keep her non-Jatav Dalit votebank intact — so in this situation, when voters elect the next PM, they will find no alternative but Narendra Modi,” the BJP leader said.