In most of her public rallies, BSP's national president Mayawati has been exhorting Dalits and Muslims to unitedly support her party to make a 'Dalit ki Beti' the prime minister of the country. And to bring them together, she has been drawing parallel between the 'pathetic economic conditions of both the communities since country's Independence'.
On the face of it, the combination of Dalit-Muslim (21.1%+18.5% of population in UP) looks like a winning formula, which Mayawati herself explains at most of her rallies. "We have fielded Muslim and Brahmin candidates in 40 odd Lok Sabha constituencies, while Dalits are contesting from 17 reserved seats. Thus, it is the moral responsibility of the Muslims and the Brahmins to support the our Dalit candidates in lieu of their support to them (Muslims and Brahmin)."
The challenge before her is to convince the Muslims about her secular credentials that come under cloud due to her past alliances with the BJP as also to keep her core vote intact by reassuring them of her commitment to the Dalit agenda. She has woken up after suffering loss of her core votes to the BJP in the first two phases with the party coordinators now working hard to ensure their 'mission' doesn't fail in the remaining four phases in the state.
Professor Kali Charan of Lucknow University however dismisses them as mere conjecture and says, "The cadre vote is not concerned with whom the party allies or who it fields. They vote for her and the symbol."
But politics is not pure mathematical additions and subtractions, especially when there are multiple choices and fissures appear in traditional vote banks. Her increasing dependence on Dalit-Muslim combo is quite evident as the Brahmins, lured by the Modi hype, are gravitating towards the BJP, barring some constituencies where the BSP has fielded a popular face from amongst them.
Prof Badri Narain of Dalit Resource Centre admits that homogeneity is lacking as the Muslims often favour the dominant community and have also been at loggerheads with the Dalits, especially in the urban areas. Moreover, to keep Modi at bay, the Muslims will vote for winning party, whether it is the BSP or the SP.
Thus Mayawati faces an herculean task of translating her ambitious plan of Dalit-Muslim engineering into reality especially when they are not on the same page of communal divide. The party has also not made much efforts in the past to bring the two communities under the party banner - like the Dalit-Brahmin bhaichara meetings across the state prior to 2007 assembly elections. Now this new combo of Dalit-Muslim is at test in various constituencies like Bahriach where they hold the veto power. The party coordinators concede that though the Dalits attended recent meeting of Naseemuddin Siddiqui, no such campaign was done by them to bring Dalit-Muslim together. According to Mayawati supporter Subhash Chauhan the Modi factor has taken away Brahmins from BSP while Muslims are going to SP. "Had we organised joint meetings of Dalits-Muslims, we would have retain the latter's support."
Others like Lucknow resident Afroz Ahmad said, "We liked BSP but she kept changing her political agenda."
Secondly, Dalits grudge the fact that Muslims rarely reciprocated their support by voting for non-Muslim BSP candidates.
Recalling the age-old slogan 'Dalit-Muslim pichda ek saman, Hindu ho ya Musalman' (All dalits and backward castes are alike, Hindu or Muslim), Professor Kali Charan says: "The BSP launched a campaign to bring together the Dalits and the Brahmins-- the former resented upper caste domination. But there no such animosity between the Dalits and the Muslims as Kanshi Ram often said the latter were member of the same Bahujan Samaj."
He was referring to backward Muslims belonging to pasmanda samaj, many of whom are converted Muslims and are victim of high castes just as Dalits.
According to Professor Charan now that Mayawati has intensified her campaign as well as attack on Modi, she will win the confidence of the minorities in subsequent phases.
Of late, Mayawati has stepped up her attack on both Modi and Mulayam over communal riots. But the scene on the ground is different. Aggressive posturing by the Samajwadi Party has made Mulayam the first choice of the Muslims though he faces the fury of Yadavs who have coined the slogan, 'Satta humne di dadda (Mulayam) ko, Daddu (brother) ne di lalla ko (Akhilesh), Lalla ne di Allah ko'. Maya's only hope now is to ensure Muslims vote tactically along with Dalits.
While in 22 assembly constituencies Muslims account for more than 20% of the electorates, Dalit's spread is in 36 of them. The combo can be a formidable weapon against BJP's coalition of upper caste, non-Yadav backwards and non Jatav Dalits or Mulayam's Dalit-Yadav combination. Much would depend on Dalit-Muslim engineering, which one doesn't seen on the ground as of now.