India Politics
BSP crushes everyone to take power in Uttar Pradesh
May 11, 2007 - 2:38:31 PM

Lucknow, May 11 - The Bahujan Samaj Party - created history Friday with an amazing electoral victory in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, to catapult its charismatic leader Mayawati as chief minister for a fourth time and as a key player in national politics.

Mayawati, 51, who had ruled Uttar Pradesh on three occasions briefly, is set to have a razor-thin majority in the 403-seat assembly, bettering the predictions of even the most optimistic pundits who were always confident of a BSP win but not sure of it touching the halfway mark.

Election officials said the BSP was set to reach or even cross the 202 mark vital to form a stable government without anyone's support - an outstanding feat for a party that was born only 23 years ago, banking solely on its Dalit base.

The BSP sweep, all the way from New Delhi's outskirts Noida to Ballia in the state's eastern border with Bihar, punctured the ruling Samajwadi Party and left an overconfident Bharatiya Janata Party - shattered in the third place with its worst electoral showing since 1991.

The Samajwadi Party is expected to end up with 91 seats and BJP with 55. Smaller parties and independent candidates wrapped up a little over 25 seats.

The Congress, which had roped in party president Sonia Gandhi and her MP son Rahul Gandhi in a desperate move to improve upon its poor 2002 showing, was left with just about 25 seats - the same as last time.

But Congress candidates fared the best in the parliamentary constituencies of Sonia Gandhi's Rae Bareli and Rahul Gandhi's Amethi - proving yet again that the two remain the biggest vote catchers of the country's oldest party.

A sullen Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav remained closeted at his residence here as news of the electoral disaster came in. His aides said he would submit his resignation to Governor T.V. Rajeshwar at 3 p.m. to enable a new government to take office.

BSP's spectacular showing makes the party a major factor in India's upcoming presidential polls, where the voters come from parliament and state assemblies, and also nationally. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress-led alliance would henceforth have to take Mayawati very seriously.

Congress and BJP leaders quickly congratulated Mayawati, who brought about a radical shift in BSP by moving the party away from an exclusively Dalit support base to one that would embrace all communities including the Hindu upper castes it once so openly despised.

The social engineering, as the process came to be called, appeared to have done the trick, making the BSP the winner or runner up in most constituencies all across sprawling Uttar Pradesh.

Staggered elections in Uttar Pradesh took place from April 7 to May 8, and 50 million voters exercised their franchise in complete peace. BSP supporters rated this as one of the main reasons for their victory.

The Samajwadi Party's high profile campaign involving the Bachchan family and chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Haryana as well failed to click with a people apparently sick and tired of soaring crime and lack of development.

'Congratulations to Mayawati. The benefit of our campaign went to BSP,' Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal remarked, referring to the aggressive anti-Samajwadi campaign his party undertook.

The BJP's actor-turned-politician Shatrugan Sinha also hailed Mayawati's win and said: 'It is time for introspection for all of us. We have not been able to live up to the expectations of the people.'

BJP's Hindu radical leader Vinay Katiyar expressed 'shock' over the results. The BJP was mauled even in Ayodhya, where it has led since the 1980s an emotive drive to build a grand temple on the ruins of the Babri mosque that was razed by Hindu nationalist mobs in 1992.

The fact that BJP's two main leaders in Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh, were both former chief minister made no dent on the voters.

The Communist Party of India - and Communist Party of India-Marxist - were wiped out, as were the Apna Dal party that had lined up with BJP as well as the Jan Morcha of former prime minister V.P. Singh and former actor Raj Babbar.

But Babbar and Beni Prasad Verma, both of who quit the Samajwadi Party after developing differences with Mulayam Singh Yadav over his Man Friday Amar Singh, ended up undercutting the ruling party though they did not win any seat.

The results sparked off victory celebrations by thousands of BSP supporters across the state. Shouting slogans against Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh, they gathered at the BSP's plush headquarters and also Mayawati's residence here.

Mayawati has vowed to send Mualayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh to jail on charges of corruption and criminality if she forms a government.

The blows to Samajwadi Party were so severe that party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who contested from two constituencies, trailed in one: Bharthana. Several of his colleagues were humbled.

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