After Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav, there is very little room for anyone else in Uttar Pradesh politics. Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would have to slug it out for that small space. That’s how the battle line will be drawn whenever the next elections are called.
Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party (SP) went into a shell for a while after the shocking defeat in the last assembly elections. The defeat itself wasn’t shocking, as that was a foregone conclusion; it was the magnitude of the defeat.
But it’s coming out now. “I had decided not to speak against the Mayawati government for six months but people have forced me to come out after just three months,” says Mulayam.
He sees growing disillusionment among the people with the ruling party there. And he begins to dream again, of winning and doing well. His dreams are all for Uttar Pradesh, for now at least. No national ambitions like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Mulayam had dissolved all the 70 district units of his party soon after being voted out. Most units have been reconstituted now, as if ready for another battle with the same foe.
For now, the party seems to be going solo but it wouldn’t rule out seat adjustments with the Left parties. Alliances in other states are uncertain after the virtual break-up of the third front.
Dissidents are not seen any more and no one worries about dissidence. Those who resented party general secretary Amar Singh’s style of functioning have either left the party or reconciled to his presence. Amar Singh himself is seen less and less.
The BSP, on the other hand, makes light of its dipping popularity. Accusations of land grab and acquisition of various government bungalows have dented its urban support.
The caste equations have gone sour in the rural areas. Mayawati’s steadfast supporters, the Dalits, who form nearly 16 per cent of the electorate, resent the attention the Brahmins are getting at their expense. In the light of the Ram Setu controversy, the BJP had asked whether the BSP wants to keep Ram and EV Periyar Ramaswami Naicker together.
The BSP has begun selecting nominees and would prefer to go it alone. In UP, it has inducted activists into various government committees, boards and corporations and provided them with logistic support through official paraphernalia. Their brief is to tour the state extensively and mobilize support for the party.
The government has stepped up its campaign to demolish the SP support base in the panchayats and cooperatives. It has also launched an unprecedented campaign to “cleanse” the police force by weeding out more than 12,000 constables recruited during the past two years.
The SP had tried to consolidate its base among the other backward castes through these recruitments that witnessed large-scale irregularities.
Runaway success in Uttar Pradesh prompted Mayawati to replicate her Brahmin-Dalit vote fusion formula in other states. Political observers, however, differ over the degree of its success elsewhere.
In UP, Mayawati benefited hugely from anti-incumbency against Mulayam. She may not be that lucky in every state she wants to take. The Congress, fairly well disposed so far towards Mayawati, realizes it can do business with the BSP in the other states only at its own peril.
It wouldn’t be easy to gauge the dissidence in the BSP with a stiff clampdown on most leaders’ interaction with the media. But some leaders have already realized that those who paid for the party tickets may not remain loyal to the leadership during testing times.