Uttar Pradesh’s capital will be draped in blue, with images of Kanshi Ram all across, on Sunday. When the BSP founder died exactly 10 years ago, there was little doubt Mayawati was his chosen successor. In 2007, she went on to become the UP CM with an outright majority.
On Sunday, the tenth death anniversary of her mentor, the BSP supremo will seek to cement precisely this legacy and give a push to her 2017 election campaign with a massive show of strength in Lucknow. But this time, in a sign of the rift within the Dalit movement, she faces a challenge from rebel leaders, seeking to claim Kanshi Ram for their own political projects.
Mayawati has her task cut out as she faces a four-cornered contest in the politically critical state that could also have a bearing on the 2019 general elections. The BSP will be facing off with the incumbent Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party that is grappling with family factionalism and perception of lawlessness; on the other hand is the BJP, riding on the 2014 landslide in the state and aggressively wooing the Dalit votes but lacking a CM face. The Congress too is eyeing a revival with good responses to party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s month-long Kisan Yatras, but continues to lack any core social base.
Show of strength
Expecting half a million people, BSP has booked 19 trains, 500 buses and thousands of cars to transport workers from across the state. They will assemble at the Kanshi Ram memorial. Mayawati will address the supporters at Kanshi Ram Eco Park, located adjacent to the memorial. This is being seen as her effort to ensure that BSP’s core constituency of Dalits remains intact, even as the party seeks to expand into other groups.
For the BSP, the issue of who is Kanshi Ram’s successor is beyond debate. BSP UP state president, Ramachal Rajbhar, said, “There is no confusion. The BSP founder himself used to say that Mayawati would continue his mission. In December 2001, Kanshi Ram declared Mayawati his successor.”
He said an old slogan ‘Kanshi Ram tera mission adhura Mayawati karegi pura’, only showed where the loyalty of party cadres rested.
Amar Jatav is a resident of Khair tehsil in Aligarh district and has travelled to Lucknow for the rally. He said, “In power or out of power, Mayawati has carried the Dalit movement ahead and worked for the empowerment of the Dalit community.”
But Kanshi Ram’s old loyalists, Daddu Prasad and RK Chaudhary, have decided to challenge Mayawati’s claim by organising separate rallies in the city.
Prasad will organize a rally at Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan under the banner of Bahujan Mukti Party (BMP). He claimed Mayawati has deviated from the ideals of Kanshi Ram. “She is selling assembly election tickets and has virtually usurped the power by sidelining Kanshi Ram’s loyalists.” To prove this point, the BMP will showcase former BSP leaders who were close to Kanshi Ram but were sidelined or expelled by Mayawati.
Chaudhary enjoys considerable influence among the Pasi community - this is distinct from Mayawati’s Jatav community, over which she has tremendous appeal. Chaudhary who quit the party recently, has decided to organise a meeting near historical Parivartan chowk in the city.
He does not buy the BSP claim the legacy question is settled. “Usually a will is made of property and not of ideology.” He also disagreed with Mayawati’s efforts to expand beyond her core base. “While establishing BSP and other organisations, Kanshi Ram had said that it would be the party of the scheduled and backward castes but Mayawati opened doors for upper castes too.”
The challenge to Mayawati is good news for the other parties in the fray. BJP spokesman Harish Chandra Srivastava says she must now see the writing on the wall. “Those who were once her close lieutenants have started deserting her. Every leader who has left her has accused her of minting money in the name of Dalits. What can be more shocking?”
To check clash between rival groups, the district administration has made elaborate security arrangements, particularly at railway and bus stations.