Mayawati is in a spot of bother again. But she has opted attack as her best defence.
The Bahujan Samaj Party leader had to eat her words in less than nine hours after describing Muslims as fanatics. Such was the scare of an adverse reaction that she called up another press conference to mitigate the damage.
Mayawati sparked the trouble for herself with an indiscreet remark that she backed the BJP in Meerut mayoral election to foil a fanatic Muslim from winning as Muslims form a strong vote bank in UP with 16 per cent strength.
The BJP campaign manager Kalyan Singh has already made it clear that his party was prepared to do without the support of Muslims. But, the BSP sees itself as a potential replacement for SP and Muslims are an important component of the permutations and combinations it would like to try out with the non-Dalits.
The BSP held the mayor's post in the outgoing municipal corporation in Meerut. It kept off the fray and transferred its votes to the BJP to spite a former party colleague Haji Yaqub Qureshi, now a minister in the Mulayam Singh government.
Interestingly Kalbe Sadiq, the scholarly member of the All India Muslim Personal Law board was more scathing in his recent observations against the mullahs for giving the community a fanatic image. A large section of Muslims do concede being let down by the Mullahs.
So, did Mayawati really stir the hornet's nest? The ruling Samajwadi Party would make it appear so. But the charges didn't stick despite Mayawati's long record of abrasive utterances because Muslims have not taken Mulayam's overtures positively. And, this was reflected in the division of the community's vote during the civic elections.
Having averted her party's fragmentation on the eve of the assembly elections Mayawati has picked up from where she left before the civic elections and hopes to cash in on the incumbent government's falling popularity.
Her latest move to expel on MP and two MLAs from the party on Sunday shows she prefers to remain aggressive.
Another step has been to build bridges with the Brahmins, who have frequently been targets of her hate campaign. Are the Brahmins really accepting Mayawati's leadership? The long queues for BSP nominations would suggest so.
Mayawati makes no bones about selling the party nominations and transferring votes without any ideological qualms.
The reworked equation with Brahmins may have its side effects. Mayawati can transfer the Dalit votes at will but she can't be sure that the Brahmins would reciprocate in the Dalit-dominated areas. It is a calculated gamble and she doesn't mind playing for high stakes.