BSP chief Mayawati on Monday promised to complete the task ``left unfinished'' by BR Ambedkar and her mentor Kanshi Ram -- of politically empowering the dalits and the disadvantaged sections of the population -- as 42 Buddhist monks, who performed the seventh-day rites of the dalit leader's death, projected her as the country's future prime minister.
``I will try to fulfil the dreams of Kanshi Ram and Ambedkar at the earliest. I am sure we will reach our destination in a few years,'' she told the gathering which consisted of bhikshus (monks), mediapersons and some relatives of the deceased dalit leader.
There was no representation from other parties. But the political message Mayawati delivered was loud and clear -- that she was the anointed heir to carry on the legacy of Kanshi Ram, her mentor, and Ambedkar who framed the country's Constitution. And the monks reinforced it -- urging Mayawati's relatives to help her in her task.
After Kanshi Ram suffered a stroke in December 2003, Mayawati has been managing the BSP's affairs alone. But she got the first indication of the sympathy the BSP mascot's death could evoke at the huge rally in Nagpur last week. She expects a ``massive'' turnout on October 18 when she takes the urn containing Kanshi Ram's ashes to the BSP office in Lucknow, as Uttar Pradesh gears up for next year's assembly polls.
In a way, on Monday, Mayawati kicked off the election campaign for the poll-bound state where she would occupy the chief minister's chair ``if the people want me to.''
She reached out to the growing community of Buddhists by performing Kanshi Ram's last rites in accordance with the Buddhist traditions and sent them off by giving the monks a ``dakshina'' of clothes, blankets, toiletry and Rs 10,000.
``He wanted his last rites to be observed according to the Buddhist rituals,'' she told newspersons later, with Kashi Ram's photograph and the five candles placed before it providing the backdrop.
In keeping with the Buddhist tradition that celebrates the freedom of the soul, the white canopy on the lawn where the press conference was held, was bedecked with strings of marigolds and bunches of roses while the strains of Buddhist chants floated in.
Kanshi Ram did not convert to Buddhism. Nor does Mayawati intend to. ``We had decided that we will embrace Buddhism along with millions of dalits once we get an absolute majority on our own at the Centre and in several states,'' she said, asserting that political power was the ``master key'' for effecting social transformation.
Though she heralded a new tradition of social change by lighting Kanshi Ram's pyre, Mayawati pointed out that it was because Ashoke was an emperor that he could give a boost to Buddhism.
She recalled that Kanshi Ram had once visualised that by the time the 50th anniversary of Ambedkar's conversion to Buddhism was observed on October 14, 2006, there would be BSP governments at the Centre and in states. ``That dream has remained unrealised so far,'' she said.
To achieve that objective, the BSP chief is also trying to reach out to the upper castes in her bid to build a grand alliance of dalits-muslims-upper castes that once formed the bulwark of the Congress support base.
Mayawati acknowledged that the upper castes would be suitably accommodated in the ticket distribution for the 2007 assembly polls. But she does not want to expend her energy in the local body elections in November where she has allowed her workers to contest without a party symbol. Her decision is based on the logic that giving a party nomination to person would create several rebels ahead of the assembly polls -- a possibility she wants to rule out.