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Shadow on BSP caste rainbow

delhi Updated: May 25, 2009 00:41 IST
Vikas Pathak

The Bahujan Samaj Party’s social engineering, which gave it a huge victory in the 2007 assembly polls, is already under a cloud after the party’s listless performance in the Lok Sabha polls.

The party got just 20 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, with 27 per cent of the votes.

Immediately after the results, party chief Mayawati dissolved all Bhaichara (brotherhood) Committees meant to mobilize support from different castes and communities. She, however, said these would soon be started afresh.

The move has sparked speculation on whether this is the end of the BSP’s caste rainbow and the beginning of its return to primarily being a Dalit party. Mayawati’s recent statement that Muslims did not back the BSP further fuels this speculation.

“These are signs of a retreat from the Sarvjan (all sections) discourse so as to redefine it to focus on OBCs. In other words, it is a going back to the earlier Bahujan — majority people, meaning Dalits and OBCs — discourse,” said Badri Narayan, a specialist on UP’s Dalit politics. “Among Muslims, the BSP will work towards enrolling lower sections like weavers.”

Jawaharlal Nehru University sociologist Vivek Kumar, however, brushed aside the dissolution as a routine post-poll exercise.

“Mobilisation of human resource does not yield results instantly,” he said. “The Bahujan idea took two decades to work; the Sarvjan idea cannot pay dividends in just two years. The BSP should keep its cool till then.”

The BSP consolidated its Dalit base in the 1990s, weaning the community — which makes up 21 per cent of UP’s electorate — away from the Congress. To access power, it went into alliances with parties that had vote banks in other communities, like the Samajwadi Party with its OBC base and BJP with its upper caste base.

“But these could not ensure vote transfer from non-Dalits to the Dalit party. So, it decided to go directly to each community,” said Kumar.

According to academic Sudha Pai: “The committees were not a great success in the Lok Sabha polls.” In Etah, the BSP’s Shakya Bhaichara Committee head Shyam Singh Shakya contested on a BJP ticket.

These committees, which catered to all major castes and communities, operated at various levels — state, mandal, district and constituency. “The secretary of each committee was a Dalit while the president was from that caste or community,” said Kumar.

“The core position of the Dalit ensured there was no dilution from the BSP being a Dalit-led party,” said a BSP leader who did not want to be named.

Kumar’s explanation: “The committees are a gesture of the Dalit going to other communities to get them on board. So, the Dalit has to be secretary.”