The 11 MLAs, who were sacked by Mayawati in the last two years, have accused her trusted aide Satish Chandra Mishra of creating the differences and misleading her. Mayawati is left with only 7 MLAs at a time when Uttar Pradesh is going to polls easrly next year.
In fresh crisis for the BSP, the Mayawati-led party is facing an imminent split after a group of rebel MLAs met Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, hinting that they would join his group, while some claimed they would form their own breakaway faction.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Mayawati lashed out at the Samajwadi Party, saying, "If the SP had been a little honest towards these suspended MLAs, it would not have kept them in the balance till now. Because they know that if these BSP MLAs are taken, there will be rebellion and split in SP."
The Bahujan Samaj Party has faced several splits over the years, marked by leaders accusing the leadership of lack of connect. But what engineered the latest dissent can be attributed to hectic parleys ahead of the 2022 assembly polls.
What has happened so far?
There seems to be a divide among MLAs in the party this time with some MLAs keen to join SP and others preferring to form their own party. MLA Aslam Raini said on Tuesday that they have the support of 11 BSP MLAs who would form their own legislature party, and the new leader would decide their future course of action.
This is not the first time party is facing an imminent split. The infamous "guesthouse incident" of 1995 led to several defections, with BSP founder member Raj Bahadur forming his own outfit with some MLAs; general secretary Sone Lal Patel going on to form Apna Dal, a section of which is in alliance with BJP now; and then BSP state president Jang Bahadur Patel too defected with a section of MLAs.
This was repeated in 1997 and 2003 when Kalyan Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav, respectively, received support from MLAs of the BSP.
What is the latest issue?
The churning started last year during the Rajya Sabha polls, when five MLAs, including Aslam Raini, met Akhilesh Yadav and alleged that their support to the BSP candidate was forged. Mayawati suspended seven MLAs for anti-party activities. It is these MLAs who have again met Yadav and claimed that with Mayawati having recently expelled veterans Lalji Verma and Ram Achal Rajbhar too, they have the support of 11 MLAs and can form their own group.
What are the complaints?
Prominent leaders who have left or been expelled since 2016 have alleged that extortion and arrogance of the leadership were key reasons for their departure. The fresh concerns seem to be over an unapproachable leadership. These complaints increased after the BSP changed court and broke its pact with the SP following an alliance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Mayawati said in 2019 that her party workers would rather support BJP to ensure defeat of SP candidates after some MLAs had met Akhilesh Yadav. This is said to have added to the discontent.
Many also feel that it was a combination of Dalit, Muslim and upper caste votes that led to the party’s rise in 2007. However, with the steady exodus, the BSP has lost several prominent faces such as Dara Singh Chauhan, Swami Prasad Maurya, Brijesh Pathak, and Naseemuddin Siddiqui.
BSP's senior leader and Mayawati's trusted aide Satish Chandra Mishra has emerged as the thorn in the flesh of the 11 party MLAs who have been sacked by Mayawati over the past two years, with most of them accusing Mishra of creating the differences and misleading her.
Mishra has been a trusted aide of Mayawati over the years and was key behind the strategy of reaching out to Brahmins that brought BSP to power last in 2007. Mishra was also deputed to Punjab to seal the alliance with Akali Dal and was present on the stage with Sukhbir Badal in Chandigarh last week. He is said to have alerted Mayawati when seven of the suspended BSP MLAs had earlier not obeyed the party’s diktat in Rajya Sabha polls and sabotage by senior BSP leaders Lalji Verma and Ram Achal Rajbahr in the recent Panchayat polls.
The way forward
Since 2007, when the party last formed the UP government with 206 seats out of 403 and a vote share of 30%, it has fallen to 80 seats (25%) in 2012 and 19 seats (22%) in 2017.
If the 11 MLAs can get one more MLA on board, they can form their own party and dodge the anti-defection law but that seems difficult as former BSP state chief and dismissed MLA Ram Achal Rajbhar has still reposed faith in Mayawati and said he would wait at least a month for her to change her mind. A few other sacked MLAs are said to be in touch with the BJP, hence not interested in forming a separate party. Senior BSP leader Lalji Verma has also remained silent on the matter.
BSP's changes at the top seem to smack of appeasement as first MP Danish Ali was removed as Lok Sabha leader only to bring him back before being replaced again by MP Ritesh Pandey. State president Munquad Ali was similarly removed to make way for Bhim Rajbhar.
Though the Punjab alliance with Akali Dal has been described by both partners as a 'game-changer' in Punjab, the fact remains that BSP has been a poor performer in alliances outside Uttar Pradesh. BSP's alliance with Ajit Jogi in the Chhattisgarh elections in 2018 failed spectacularly, winning just seven seats out of 90. BSP also tied up with the INLD in Haryana for the 2019 assembly elections before the same collapsed as the INLD split and Mayawati’s party later scored a blank in Haryana. BSP six MLAs who win in Rajasthan in the 2018 elections there shifted their loyalty to the Congress.
The opportunity for BSP lies only in Uttar Pradesh where an alliance with the SP could breathe energy into the listless opposition in the state. Both parties feel that given the cycle of change in power in UP, they stand a chance to knock out BJP on their own, especially as while BJP still seems unassailable in a national election, it remains vulnerable in state elections.