BSP chief Mayawati’s ‘reminder’ to the Dalits that ‘they are not Hindus’ has made her election strategy remarkably different from those of other parties at various levels. Taking off from where BR Ambedkar left, she has included a social-historical-political issue in her overall election armoury. One can disagree with her views on Dalit society and one can also be rest assured that sociologists will tear her theory to shreds. But the refreshing part is that she has lent an element of intellectualism to the electioneering process. The BJP and the SP have painted their campaigns with the communal and caste brush, and stealthily at that with the idea of creating divisions. The Congress has relied heavily on personal attacks and stoked the fears of the poor by creating a phobia of rich industrial conglomerates gaining a stranglehold on decision-making if the BJP comes to power. True, Mayawati has also attacked the saffron party and its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, but she did it by making the Bahujan Samaj, the rejects of traditional Hinduism, the centrepiece of her theme.
Now the question is whether these things will move the electorate or at least her constituency. The Dalits will no doubt be churned up, though it is in the air that some sections among them have ingratiated themselves with the Brahminical social hierarchy and switched allegiance to the BJP. This will also take Mayawati’s kind of politics off any kind of religious mooring that sometimes becomes inevitable in the course that some parties take. At least no Hindu priest, imam and Church cleric has asked people to vote for the BSP. No place of worship has become a happy hunting-ground for the Dalits to seek votes in the name of their only spokesperson in the country.
But at some points she may stand to lose. In 2007, she had crafted a social coalition of the Brahmins and Dalits. Now, one wonders how the upper castes of UP will react to her stridency. And next, it cannot be said with certainty that what works for the Dalits of UP will also work elsewhere. An inability to factor that in will come in the way of her party expanding outside the state.