The elephant is ready for the Gujarat election battle.
BSP chief Mayawati has announced that her party, like in Himachal Pradesh, will go it alone and contest all 182 Assembly seats.
In the 2002 Gujarat elections, Mayawati — who was the Uttar Pradesh chief minister then — had campaigned for Narendra Modi. But this time she has changed sides — the chief minister is her target. The BSP slogan says it all: Haathi nahi Gajraj hai, Modi ka Yamraj hai (It’s not an elephant... It is the messenger of Modi’s death).
Mayawati is hoping her party will change the usual bi-polar fight — between the BJP and the Congress — to a three-cornered one. But BJP leaders say the BSP’s campaign will harm the Congress more than their party even though Mayawati is targeting Modi. Party general secretary Arun Jaitley believes it would affect the Congress’ traditional voters.
The party’s maiden entry can only split the anti-BJP votes, more so because its state unit is led by former BJP dissident Nalin Bhatt.
With Bhatt at the helm of affairs in Gujarat, the BSP is hoping to replicate Uttar Pradesh’s “social engineering” experiment that helped it storm to power there.
Bhatt, who has been made party general secretary for Gujarat, told HT that the BSP is not bothered about cutting into any party’s bank. He said the party had polled 3 lakh votes in the 20 Lok Sabha seats it contested in 2004.
The BSP insists its main fight is with the Congress as Modi would finish “third” thanks to BJP’s internal quarrels, coupled with the effect of the Tehelka sting on post-Godhra riots.
Senior BSP leader Gandhi Azad claims the “message” from Uttar Pradesh — the unity of upper castes and Dalits — has reached all corners of the country and Gujarat could not be an exception. He said though there has been development under the BJP rule, it has only helped “Modi and Modi company”.
He was not apologetic about Mayawati’s campaign for Modi in 2002 and said at that time, the BJP leadership that was supporting her government in Uttar Pradesh had requested her to campaign. “In fact, Mayawati’s campaigning helped the BJP gain two-third majority,” he told PTI.