Politics or pressure? What’s driving Mayawati’s 2024 poll moves

The complex electoral landscape of Uttar Pradesh is engulfed in the ‘mysterious’ political moves by its former chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati. Under opposition fire over allegations of being ‘BJP’s B team’, a jibe often taken by Samajwadi (SP) Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati was almost close to shedding the label up until the third phase of the Lok Sabha polls.

Boosted by her feisty nephew and the party’s former national coordinator Akash Anand, BSP was turning the tide by building momentum to fight against the BJP’s juggernaut and also the INDIA alliance. She was also seen addressing more rallies, which was not the case before, and caused some heartburn among the supporters. Long story short, Mayawati was doing everything to change her image — from being more visible, upping her attacks on the BJP to extensive all-community outreach. Till the third phase, Mayawati’s candidate selection triggered a discussion in her favour. Perhaps, Behen ji was steadfast on taking the saffron force head on.

But the narrative began to change when she dropped Akash Anand over immaturity and changed candidates on key seats, which could spoil the chances of the SP and opposition leaders and help the BJP.

With 27 seats still left to go to polls, how Mayawati pulls the strings can make significant waves in battleground UP. As the heartland of Indian politics has already completed five phases of voting, the BSP chief’s political decisions have set off a debate. What raised eyebrows is the fact that the party has changed as many as 14 candidates, projecting a weakened image on itself.

The question now is — has she faltered on her poll strategies or the allegation of giving tacit support to BJP is here to stay?


But before attempting to decode the BSP’s fast-changing moves, the unimpressive performance of the party in the last two general elections makes it evident that 2024 is also a prestige battle for Mayawati as she would try to latch on to the 10 seats the party won in 2019 with SP and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in alliance.

The party failed to win a single seat in 2014, making it evident that the party benifitted from the Muslim, Yadav, and Jat vote banks of its alliance partners in the next Lok Sabha election. Any further fragmentation of its electoral base could push it towards irrelevance, but a decent outcome in this election could help the party position itself as a third front in the state.


This election saw two turning points where BSP faced substantial electoral risk because of Mayawati’s decisions. The first blow was the removal of her nephew Akash Anand during the elections and sacking him from the post of the national coordinator. This has disappointed the young voters of BSP, driving them away towards the Samajwadi Party in the search of an alternative. Letting her decision known on social media, Mayawati tweeted, “It is known that BSP, besides being a party, is also a movement for self-respect and self-esteem of Baba Saheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar and social change for which Shri Kanshi Ram ji, and I have dedicated our entire lives and a new generation is also being prepared to give it momentum.

“In the same sequence, along with promoting other people in the party, I declared Shri Akash Anand as the National Coordinator and his successor, but in the larger interest of the party and the movement, he is being separated from both these important responsibilities until he attains full maturity.”

In response, Anand vowed to fight till his last breath for the Bhim mission and his society and regarded Mayawati as his role model. He tweeted, “You are our universal leader. I will keep fighting till my last breath for Bhim Mission and my society.”


The second such move was cancelling the ticket of Srikala Dhananjay. Mayawati had given her a ticket after dropping its sitting MP Shyam Singh Yadav to accommodate her, but was in for a rude shock when her husband Dhananjay reportedly struck a deal with the BJP. Mayawati had to drop her and gave the ticket to Shyam Singh Yadav. The disgruntled gangster-politician dubbed the BSP’s dismissal of his wife from the seat a conspiracy to humiliate him. Singh, who won the seat for BSP in 2009 said, “The BSP betrayed me for the fourth time. In 2012, 2014 and 2017, the party assured me of a ticket but cheated me at the last moment”. The seat will be one to look out for as it goes to polls on May 25 in the sixth phase. The two developments served a hard blow to the BSP making it tough for it to bounce back with the renewed vigour it showed initially.

A look at the 14 seats where candidates were changed mid-election


Srikala Reddy, wife of former Bahujan Samaj Party MP Dhananjay Singh from Jaunpur, was announced as the party’s candidate first but her ticket was cancelled for Shyam Singh Yadav — a BSP MP.


Similarly, in Varanasi BSP changed its candidate twice. Initially Athar Jamal Lari was made the candidate but a week later BSP picked Syed Niaz Ali Manju. Later his ticket was cancelled and once again Athar Jamal Lari was picked.


In Azamgarh, BSP first picked Bhim Rajbhar. However, his ticket was cancelled and Sabia Ansari was made the candidate. Later Sahiba Ansari’s ticket was also cancelled and her husband Masood Ahmed was declared as the candidate.


In Aligarh, the BSP declared Gufran Noor as its candidate, only to replace him with Hitendra Upadhyay.


The BSP had changed its candidate in Mathura too. Initially Kamal Kant Upmanyu was given the ticket but later his ticket was cancelled and Chaudhary Suresh Singh was given the ticket.


In Firozabad, the party initially made Satyendra Jain Soli its candidate and later Chaudhary Bashir was made the candidate.


In Jhansi, the party first announced advocate Rakesh Kushwaha as its candidate only to replace him with Ravi Kushwaha.


Bahujan Samaj Party had earlier made Khwaja Shamsuddin, a resident of Gorakhpur, its candidate from the Domariyaganj seat. Four days later, when BSP released its 11th list, it cancelled Shamsuddin’s ticket and announced the name of Mohammad Nadeem Mirza.

Sant Kabir Nagar:

In Sant Kabir Nagar, the Bahujan Samaj Party had earlier made Mohammad Alam its candidate. But after 15 days, his ticket was cancelled and Danish Ashraf was given the ticket. But the party changed its candidate again and declared Nadeem Ashraf as its candidate.


The BSP earlier made Gulshan Shakya its candidate from Mainpuri seat. But after a few days, his ticket was cancelled and Shiv Prasad Yadav was declared its candidate.


Anshay Kalra alias Raki was picked as the BSP candidate from Ghaziabad Lok Sabha seat and then cancelled his ticket for Nandkishore Pundir.


Ravi Prakash Maurya was picked as the BSP’s Amethi candidate. But later, his ticket was cancelled and given to Nanhe Singh Chauhan.


BSP had earlier made Athar Ansari its candidate from Bhadohi. But his ticket was cancelled and given to Irfan Ahmed. Later, his ticket was also cancelled for Harishankar Singh Chauhan.


In Basti, former BSP candidate Dayashankar Mishra’s ticket was cancelled and he was replaced with Lavkush Patel.


Even Mayawati’s voters believed that if Behen ji had not rejected the offer to join the INDIA alliance or had at least taken Congress along, she would have been in a better position to salvage the party’s reputation for being beleaguered.

In the boiling political cauldron, Jatavs, the BSP’s core voter, remains strongly with Mayawati, but the educated and younger members of the community are seemingly angry with her and is looking for an alternative. In some places, they seem to find hope in the Samajwadi Party or Chandrashekhar Ravan’s Azad Samaj Party, but the slightly older group still considers Mayawati as their leader.

BSP’s seriousness towards the elections can be gauged from the fact that Mayawati kept changing her candidate till the fourth phase of elections. Not only this, she also ruthlessly removed her heir, which derailed the momentum in her campaigns.

Before this election, with the BJP’s ‘B-team’ tag almost gone, Mayawati was being lauded over her ticket distribution for fighting as a singular force which could pose a threat to both the BJP and the SP in equal measures. Picking a Prajapati candidate in Muzaffarnagar remained a headache for BJP’s Sanjeev Balyan. A Thakur candidate in phase one, on the other hand, made the BJP jittery. But after three phases, when candidates in Jaunpur and Basti were changed, the allegations of helping BJP returned to haunt Mayawati again.

The way Dayashankar Mishra’s ticket was cancelled in Basti emboldened these allegations. Dayashankar Mishra was the district president of the BJP and after being declined a ticket by the saffron party, he joined the BSP and was fielded from the Basti seat.

The move was set to put in trouble two-time BJP MP Harish Dwivedi. But at the last minute, Mayawati changed her mind and replaced Mishra with Lavkush Patel. People asked, did she want the BJP to win? In Jaunpur, the BSP again fell back on old guard Shyam Singh Yadav overnight, turning the battle into a BJP vs SP war.


On May 25, the gaze will be on the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh with 14 constituencies — Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Phulpur, Allahabad, Ambedkarnagar, Shrawasti, Dumariyaganj, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Lalganj (SC), Azamgarh, Jaunpur, Machhlishahr (SC), and Bhadohi — going for polls.

While in 2019 nine seats went to BJP with four to BSP and one to the Samajwadi Party, 2014 witnessed a BJP sweep except for the seat of Azamgarh which went to SP. The BSP would be under the watchful eyes of political pundits to see its impact on the BJP and the SP-Congress partnership.

Meanwhile, the performance of the SP would also be interesting, as the party could never open its account in the seats of Sultanpur, Shravasti, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, and Bhadohi.

However, with a string of seemingly hasty decisions, the BSP created a weakened perception about itself. But what remains to be answered is: politics or pressure?

Published By:

Shweta Kumari

Published On:

May 24, 2024

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