Bhopal: On October 3 this year, BSP supremo Mayawati ruled out any possibility of her party forging an alliance with the Congress for the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. She said that, while Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi were in favour of an alliance, Digvijaya Singh had sabotaged it.
In a blistering attack on Digvijaya, ‘Behenji’ also flayed him for claiming that she was under pressure from the Centre, which had let loose such probe agencies as the ED and CBI on her. However, Mayawati has another and much older reason for having a deep antipathy for Digvijaya Singh.
BSP’s highest tally
In the Assembly elections of 1998 in undivided Madhya Pradesh, the BJP had secured the highest-ever number of seats. It had contested 170 seats and won 11 of them, with a vote share of 6.15 per cent.
At that time, the BSP’s rising might was seen as the emergence of a strong third force, which would ensure that the BJP did not occupy the entire Opposition space in the state. However, Digvijaya Singh, who was then chief minister of the state, did not think so. He saw the BSP as a bigger threat to the Congress than the BJP and worked meticulously to ensure that the party was decimated in Madhya Pradesh. And he succeeded in his endeavour.
How Digvijaya ensured it
On March 4, 1998, the Congress government issued an order reducing the community land reserved for grazing from 7.5 per cent to 5 per cent of the area of the villages. The surplus land was to be distributed to landless SCs and STs. Around 1.54 lakh pattas (land ownership documents) were distributed by the government. Among the beneficiaries were 46,088 SC and 34,382 ST families.
‘Congress-BSP tie-up wasn’t feasible’
The Congress-BSP coalition wasn’t feasible given the electoral dynamics at the ground level’ -Randeep Singh Surjewala, Congress national media in-charge
What ‘Behenji’ has done is perfectly okay. We’re capable of fighting and winning elections on our own’ -Ramachal Rajbhar, BSP in-charge for MP
The final blow that made the BSP run for cover
Even after the 1998 drive, around 16.2 per cent SCs and 17.57 STs were still landless. In April 2002, the government made the Bhopal Declaration a 21-point agenda for the Dalits. The first point in the agenda was that the problems of landless Dalits and tribals would be solved. Between April 14, 2002, and May 31, 2002 (47 days), 301,56 and 222,289 hectares were distributed among the landless SC and ST families, respectively. The land distribution was stopped after the intervention of the high court.
The 24 constituencies from which the BSP has won 32 seats in six elections include 10 from Vindhya (Chitrakoot, Raigaon, Rampur Baghelan, Sirmaur, Teonthar, Mauganj, Deotalab, Mangawan, Gurh) and 14 from Gwalior-Chambal (Sabalgarh, Jaura, Sumawali, Morena, Dimani, Ambah, Mehgaon, Gohad, Sewrah, Bhander, Gwalior Grameen, Gird, Dabra, Karaira, Ashoknagar).
Why the BSP is important
In 2013 Assembly elections, the BSP, in addition to winning four seats, was the runner-up in 11 constituencies and garnered more than 10,000 votes in 64 constituencies.
There were many seats which were won by the BJP by a very narrow margin.
Cut down to size
How much benefit the Congress drew from the two measures is neither here or there. But it did decimate the BSP. In the elections in 2003, the party’s tally fell from 11 to 2.