Only Mayawati can take on the NDA and galvanise a comatose Opposition | analysis | Hindustan Times
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Only Mayawati can take on the NDA and galvanise a comatose Opposition

The BJP realises the centrality of the Dalit vote to its survival — hence a Dalit President. But Mayawati can easily up the ante and negate this by asking why not a Dalit PM?

analysis Updated: Aug 02, 2017 13:37 IST
A file photo of BSP chief Mayawati at her residence in Lucknow.  By resigning a meaningless seat in the Rajya Sabha, she is the one Opposition politician who has shown a desire to seize the initiative.
A file photo of BSP chief Mayawati at her residence in Lucknow. By resigning a meaningless seat in the Rajya Sabha, she is the one Opposition politician who has shown a desire to seize the initiative.(Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times)

Nitish Kumar’s desertion of the sinking ship suggests 2019 is done and dusted. There is no one to take up the mantle an Opposition needs so desperately. The Congress hasn’t had an original idea since 1991, Mulayam Singh and son can see the writing on the wall, Mamta Banerjee has her hands full. Amma is not in the picture. About the Left the less said the better.

So where do we go from here? Five more years of the Modi brigade with the RSS firmly setting the agenda for education and moral science? The prospect seems worrying. But there is one dark horse who seems to have sensed the ‘do or die’ scenario and that is the BSP supremo, Mayawati. By resigning a meaningless seat in the Rajya Sabha, she is the one Opposition politician who has shown a desire to seize the initiative. Though a complete loner, this time she just may have the potential to galvanise a comatose opposition.

These are tough times to be a Muslim or a Dalit. This means about 30% of the population is being targeted in one way or the other by the upper castes. Unfortunately in her time Mayawati did little to address this. The hubris she has lived in has allowed her to imagine that it was only a matter of time before UP landed back in her lap. She had obviously not reckoned with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

So how does she go about it? The first thing would be to reach out to a hurting Dalit electorate and reassure it of her intention to fight on its behalf. This would involve pacifying the Bhim Sena and asking it to tone down its rhetoric for at least a few years. And then reaching out to the non-Jatavs actively for their lot has not really improved under the BJP — nor had it under the BSP.

The BJP realises the centrality of the Dalit vote to its survival — hence a Dalit President. But Mayawati can easily up the ante and negate this by asking why not a Dalit Prime Minister? Sure after more than 70 years of independence the time has come for the Dalits to make demands which go beyond symbolic statues. It may seem outrageous but this has the potential of taking the steam out of the BJP’s Dalit campaign. This can also provide the rest of the Opposition reason to congregate around her.

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The four cow belt states facing long term anti-incumbency could become vulnerable to a coordinated attack by a focused Opposition. The glue to all this would have to be Mayawati’s Dalit-centred appeal. Muslims would converge to it if they sensed a chance of it defeating the BJP. This alliance was able to muster 40% of the 2014 vote. With enthused cadres, there is a chance of exceeding this come 2019.. It seems far-fetched but with potential growing disenchantment with NDA, the electorate needs reason to vote for an alternative – and at this moment Mayawati seems the only one who can provide that.

Pankaj Butalia is a Delhi-based filmmakerThe views expressed are personal