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BJP is winning UP – according to India Today-Axis Survey released on Jan 4. Riding on a strong Modi factor, BJP would be doing better than Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), if the Survey done from October to December is to be believed. On the other hand, ABP News-Lokniti-CSDS poll released on same day projected a hung Assembly giving 141-151 seats to the Samajwadi Party, 129-139 to the BJP, and 93-103 to the BSP. The vote percentage for the Axis Survey for BJP, SP and BSP is projected as 33%, 26% and 26% respectively. The same projected by CSDS-Lokniti was 27%, 30% and 22% respectively for the three parties — leaving Congress irrelevant. Huffington post – C Voter survey released on Jan 7 also predicted that BJP would be gaining due to split in the Samajwadi Party.

Although both surveys differed on who would win a majority of seats, they both agreed that the real fight was between BJP and SP and BSP would finish poor third.

Lalu – Mayawati and opinion polls

Making any conclusions based on the above opinion polls could be suicidal before checking how the two polling agencies fared when it came to Bihar Pre-poll surveys ahead of 2015 state elections in Bihar. India Today survey had projected 125 seats to the NDA, but it actually won only 58. That is 50% less than the projection. The CSDS Lokniti survey done exclusively for Indian Express gave the NDA 4% lead over the RJD-JDU alliance. When the results came out, NDA had lost badly to the RJD-JDU alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav winning the highest number of seats.

To see how horribly wrong the survey went, one needs to look at popularity survey conducted by CDDS where Lalu Prasad featured in the negative.

It is no secret that Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mayawati, two of the tallest leaders of North India have never been exactly favorite of Mainstream Media or Pollsters, often showing them in the negative light even in surveys.

It may be recalled that in 2007 elections of UP, which BSP won handsomely, no pollster had projected a majority to BSP – neither in the Surveys nor in the exit polls. So looking at the current surveys relegating BSP to Second or Third spot should give Mayawati a cause for worry. Or maybe not.

Samajwadi Parivar Climax

The timing of the Survey from October to December does not seem to assess detailed impact should Samajwadi Party head for a split. Also, the Surveys do not seem to gauge the impact of freezing of the party’s Cycle symbol. At the time of writing this, a truce was still not achieved and the only respite for the SP workers was reports of Shivpal Yadav meeting Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who claims support of most of the MLAs with him.

Since the split is yet not confirmed officially, let us assume that SP manages to come together and fights on Cycle Symbol. This is precisely what the opinion polls may have assumed. The survey indicates that SP is not going to form the government even in the best of the scenario. Irrespective of the credibility of the Survey’s, reports of BJP having a real chance of coming to Power in the state on its own after a long time give a cause of worry for Muslim electorate. Return of Kalyan Singh kind of Mandir politics is the last thing they would want. Despite its severe criticism of the SP government for its failure to contain Shamali-Muzaffarnagar and other innumerable riots, a majority of Muslims still supported SP during 2014 Lok sabha polls. But BSP has been making steady inroads into them over the years. While Samajwadi party’s support base among Muslims has fallen from 45% in 2007 to 39% in 2012, the same for BSP has grown up from 18% in 2007 to 20% in 2012.

It may be noted that during 2009 UP elections, Muslims heavily shifted to Congress party with 25% supporting it while only 30% voted for SP, thereby enabling the Congress party to win 19 seats from the state, to the surprise of many.

This means that Samajwadi Party’s Muslim base is far from rock solid. A Recent trend indicated that it could tilt towards Congress or BSP. The Congress party is in tatters and the only hope they have now is an alliance with Akhilesh — should he break away from his father.

Azam Khan’s Warning to Samajwadi Party

This is precisely why Azam Khan of Samajwadi Party is trying desperately to forge a solution to the impasse in the party. He reportedly met Mulayam Singh Yadav and told in no uncertain terms that he could not choose between a father and son and if there is any split if the party, the majority of traditional Muslim support could move to Mayawati.

Although Muslims had been angry with Mayawati for siding with BJP in the past, very few would disagree that all her previous stints had one good thing –An improved law and order and fairly riot-free rule.This factor could be a huge bonus for BSP which is looking to bounce back after a dismal performance in the general elections where it drew blank for the first time since 1989.

An analysis done by Amitabh Tiwari and Subhash Chandra on a possible Muslim shift towards BSP in the upcoming UP polls confirms this. According to this article, BSP may get around 30-50% of Muslim vote share in 2017 elections and Dalit and votes from other sections will take BSP to around 30% share — which is a winning formula for UP. Arguing that security is the priority for Muslims, the analysts wrote, “Muslims have been unhappy over SP’s handling of the Muzaffarnagar riots. The Dadri incident has further alienated the community from the SP. Besides, Muslims’ voting behavior in the recent past has been BJP-centric — ‘negative voting’ — as they have voted for a party that could defeat BJP”.

A 10-15% shift of Muslims towards BSP could change the fortunes of the party. That is why Mayawati has been heavily banking on Dalit-Muslim combination this time. While announcing 97 tickets to Muslims out of 403, she reiterated that Muslims should not waste their votes on SP or Congress, lest it will benefit the BJP.

It appears imminent that even if Samajwadi Party stops short of splitting and a last-minute compromise is reached, it could be dogged by rebel candidates in at least 100 constituencies. This was clear from the separate list released by CM Akhilesh Yadav and Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav before the saga of expulsion began in late December. In the fight for supremacy, warring factions are likely to work underground to cut other faction to size despite patch up.

Therefore, regardless of whether SP splits or not, Muslims looking to Mayawati appears very likely. Incessant infighting in SP, an irrelevant Congress, combined with a trove of opinion polls and channels giving BJP the edge, may well lead Muslims to coalesce into BSP en masse.

This is why opinion polls showing BJP doing well in UP may not be a bad thing for Mayawati.

Ravikiran Shinde is an independent writer on socio-political issues

  • K SHESHU BABU

    A strong ‘ caste’ bias in opinion poll may not be ruled out. The polls are sponsored by big media houses and institutions majority of whom are upper- castes. They generally favour the mainstream BJP or Congress . This was proved in Delhi elections when most surveys vouched for BJP and Congress neck – to- neck race leaving AAP behind ( though most of it too are forward castes) . In Bihar to, the right-wing hindutva party was shown on the forefront by most pollsters. Similarly, in UP, they are projecting BJp as it is forward castes leaning ( though there may be some OBC / SC / ST Muslim, etc elements) . The next best is SP and the last is dalit – based Mayawathi BSP .
    Though it may be true that BSP is lagging behind, the biased poll predictions in the elections cannot be ruled out. True picture is hard to emerge in upper- castes dominated poll predictions mechanism.

  • S.M.ALI

    Dalit-Muslim unity is Very, very important all over country. Our leaders must take wise decisions before aligning with any other party.