No one is talking about Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) empress Mayawati these days. It is the victorious Samajwadi Party and its freshly-minted chief minister Akhilesh Yadav all the way. No one is talking about the fact that the difference between victory and defeat for the BSP and SP was just a little over 2%. But in a state like Uttar Pradesh, it seemed enough for experts to consign Mayawati and her sarvajan experiment to the margins of history.
Please note that I say experts. For those writing the obituary of the BSP, as a new era under the SP begins, there are many reality checks that they are missing. Mayawati may fold her tent in UP and migrate to the Rajya Sabha. But, Behenji is not going to let the grass grow under her feet. True, she may be out of the spotlight in the state for a while, but it is unlikely that she is going to go off course in the journey, which began as a schoolteacher to supreme leader, in a hurry. And she could not have hoped for a better start to Project Reinvention of Maya. The comparisons won’t take long to come. People who know her talk of her instant reaction to law and order problems. The Yadavs have got off the starting block with an alleged felon as prisons minister and several other unsavoury characters in key positions.
The streets of UP which she cleaned up with her customary iron hand are once again likely to be dominated by lumpen elements, something the SP once fostered and is doing so again it would seem. This is the time that both parties will begin the quest for the Holy Grail of national politics.
Behenji has a headstart here. She already has a presence in Maha-rashtra, Delhi and Punjab. Ambitio-usly, she fielded candidates across the country in the last general elections. She did not quite succeed but her name has greater recall than Akhilesh Yadav or for that matter the pater familias.
Many feel that with Mayawati out of the state, her charisma will wane, she will fade into the sunset. Not a chance. There is perhaps no example in recent political history where a politician has been given such a long, long rope by her followers as she has been. Let us look at the metamorphosis of this girl from Delhi who began life as a schoolteacher. Up she pops in her political avatar sporting diamonds worth crores and designer shoes and handbags. Oh, that’s our Maya, she represents the pride of the oppressed, said the adoring followers.
Claiming that the people loved her, she nevertheless threw tantrums about the number of security personnel that the state should give her. Nothing must upset Behenji’s equilibrium, said the faithful. Out she comes in public on birthdays, sporting garlands made up of a crore of rupees. It is but a manifestation of the love of the people, said well-wishers and also incidentally the courts.
A massive house springs up at a tony Delhi address. But our leader needs a place to put her feet up when she is in the Capital, was the explanation. Not that there were no allegations of avarice and greed beyond belief. There were. But they just did not seem to stick as the dirt does to other politicians at least when it came to the voters.
Her fault perhaps lay in not being able to project the achievements of her government. Almost convinced that she would lose, she seemed to lose interest. It did not seem that she put up the sort of fight she once would have. It will perhaps take this dose of painful realism, of relative obscurity, to jolt her back into her maha Maya avatar.
And it should not be that difficult. The old shibboleths have been thrown out of the window. It is not as though any one caste or class is going to throw their lot in with a single political formation in the coming years. Though psephologists go blue in the face explaining these equations, voter choices today seem far more random, individualistic or issue-based.
What Mayawati really needs to work on is to come out of isolation, much like the Queen after Diana’s death, and show that she cares. If you are going to be the champion of the downtrodden, you must at least get up close and personal with them once in while. Maybe Rahul Gandhi’s Dalit dinners did not translate into votes, but at least they ensured that they became a talking point. For Maya, there were no talking points this election.
Yes, she is a Dalit but this does not mean that she should not wear her heart on her sleeve. No harm in dropping by for the occasional natter and dinner as well. So once more with feeling and perhaps we will be looking at the Comeback Czarina. Unable to bear the sunlight, she is famously said to insist on sunshades on her helicopter. But will she be put in a shade politically? Not by a long shot.