The 15,000-strong crowd at Ramlila Ground on Sunday said it all. Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has arrived in Delhi, changing the age-old perception that the Capital's politics was only about the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Political converts had arrived at the venue in busloads from Northeast Delhi and the farthest corner of South Delhi — areas where the BSP has already made an inroad. The party may not be a strong player in Delhi yet but the gathering on Sunday was bigger than any other held in the Capital in this political season.
Then there were all sorts of merchandise in blue. Raju (12), a resident of Mangolpuri, had come with his father Mukesh Kumar to the rally. He picked up a bright blue cap with pictures of B.R. Ambedkar and the BSP chief on it.
Rows of stalls offered an array of Mayawati merchandise - books on the BSP, caps, stoles, posters, compact discs, saris, badges, identity cards, and flags of all sizes and budgets.
Mukesh Kumar, an electrician by profession, said he was very confident that Behenji would become the prime minister. “She has become the chief minister of UP and the next step is the prime minister's seat,” he said.
Satyawan, a sweet-seller, has never missed a rally of Mayawati. He lives in Badarpur, which has a BSP MLA. “Mayawati’s popularity and influence is growing by the day. I come from Aligarh in UP and I have seen her work there. She would prove to be the strongest prime minister,” he said.
Dinesh (18), a resident of Sultanpuri, is pursuing a computer course and wants to get a cushy job to support his family. “Mayawati is the only hope of the poor people like us. She doesn’t discriminate between people of different faiths or walks of life. She takes everyone along and works for everyone,” he said.
Musharrat Ali (60), a garment store salesman, from Sunder Nagri said: “BSP is the only party that has given tickets to three Muslim candidates. There are four lakh Muslims in Northeast Delhi but no other party has a Muslim candidate.”
He added, “We have always given our vote to Congress but what have they done for us?” as an afterthought.