Did changing political scenario compel BSP chief Mayawati to visit Saharanpur?
Political observers see Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati’s visit to Saharanpur as an effort to regain lost ground. Reduced to just 19 seats in the 403-member UP assembly and facing rebellion by senior leaders, the 61-year-old was aiming to strengthen the party’s core constituency -- the Dalits, political observer RK Gautam said.analysis Updated: May 24, 2017 10:59 IST
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, who counts Dalits as her support base, has in the past kept her distance from places where violence was reported against the lower-caste community.
But it changed on Tuesday when the former Uttar Pradesh chief minster visited Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur district. Clashes between upper-caste Thakurs and Dalits on May 5 left a Thakur youth dead. The Thakurs in turn set some Dalit houses on fire in the western UP village.
A fresh round of violence followed her visit. A man died of gunshot wounds and at least 20 people were injured at three different places in the district, which is prone to caste and communal violence.
Political observers see the visit as an effort by Mayawati to regain lost ground. Reduced to just 19 seats in the 403-member UP assembly and facing rebellion by senior leaders, the 61-year-old was aiming to strengthen the party’s core constituency -- the Dalits, political observer RK Gautam said.
“Aware that the BJP has made inroads into the Dalit vote bank, she plans to regain the lost ground by sending the message to the Dalits that the BSP will continue to fight for their rights,” Gautam said.
Shabbirpur was the first time she had visited Saharanpur district in three years.
When she was the chief minister from 2007-12, Mayawati used to depute senior colleagues to meet Dalit victims of caste violence. Party leaders were expected to submit a report to her.
The pattern continued even when she was in the opposition. The only exception she made was when she went to Badaun on June 2, 2014 after two sisters were found hanging dead from a tree.
The visit was an embarrassment. The girls were not Dalits and their family members were prime suspects in what is being investigated as a case of “honour killing”.
West Uttar Pradesh was a BSP stronghold and the Dalit-Muslim combine’s support played a crucial role in the party’s victory in the 2007 election.
Though the party was voted out in 2012, it managed to hold on its vote bank, bagging maximum seats in the region.
But this year, it was a wipe out. The party didn’t get a single seat in the districts considered to be its stronghold.
Bheem Army rising
The rise of the Bheem Army under the leadership of young Dalit leader Chandrashekhar also has the BSP chief worried. The outfit has not only mobilised Dalits in west UP but also put up an impressive show of strength by organising a protest rally against Saharanpur violence in New Delhi on Sunday.
Chandrashekhar, wanted for his alleged involvement in the clashes between the police and the protesters on May 9, also addressed the gathering.
Mayawati plans to counter the Bheem Army by mobilising party cadre in Saharanpur and neighbouring districts.
“With two years to go for the Lok Sabha election, Mayawati is trying to make a comeback from Shabbirpur,” a party leader said on condition of anonymity.
Besides raising the issue of atrocities on Dalits in Parliament, the BSP is also planning rallies, dharnas and demonstrations.
“Mayawati has said that Dalits consider her as their saviour. She will not allow any other political outfit or person to grab the position, even when the BSP has lost ground in the state,” SK Tyagi, a teacher in Saharanpur, said. “She plans to fight back to regaisn the old position and glory.”