Maya moves from Dalit ‘swabhiman’ to Muslim ‘bhaichara’
Mayawati’s mentor Kanshi Ram often described Uttar Pradesh as his political lab to carry out experiments to achieve his goal of changing the upper caste dominated democratic face of the state. He succeeded in his experiments as from mid-1990s backward caste took the centre-stage of state politics.lucknow Updated: Jan 12, 2017 14:11 IST
During the ticket distribution exercise for the 2017 polls, an idea was floated in the Bahujan Samaj Party to field Muslim candidates in all the seven assembly constituencies in Saharanpur district in west UP.
Saharanpur has 50 percent Muslim population. The idea literally kicked a storm in the party with other castes warning the leadership of communal polarisation, an advantage BJP. Finally, the party decided to give tickets to all the castes they are banking on to ride to victory. The list had a Brahmin, two Muslims and Dalits.
Mayawati’s mentor Kanshi Ram often described Uttar Pradesh as his political lab to carry out experiments to achieve his goal of changing the upper caste dominated democratic face of the state. He succeeded in his experiments as from mid-1990s backward caste took the centre-stage of state politics.
Now his protégé is blatantly moving from a time-tested political trajectory of caste to communal politics, the base of which is sheer arithmetic.
Political expert Dr Badri Narayan explains, “Mayawati has 25,000 to 27,000 Dalit votes in almost every constituency. As no other caste is seemingly inclined towards the BSP, she has decided to shift to communal politics. It’s a strategy or experiment and it may succeed or fail.”
According to Dr Narayan, her Dalit voters understand the party’s need to attract Muslims by giving them ‘political representation’ to win the elections.
Lucknow University professor Manoj Dixit has a different opinion. He says, “It is the BJP which converted west UP into a lab of their communal politics. Other parties, including the BSP, are falling into their trap.”
Dixit says Mulayam believed in sheer symbolism to attract Muslims – like giving tickets to Atiq Ahmad and Mukhtar Ansari’s brother or by raising emotional issues like giving relief to Muslims falsely implicated in terror cases. “But Mayawati is shifting from caste to communal politics,” he added.
Mayawati in her endeavour to keep her base vote of Dalits in humour eventually spared Saharanpur and some other Muslim dominated districts of West UP, but she did not abandon her formula of stitching Dalit-Muslim alliance in Rohelkhand and parts of central UP.
Take for instance Bareilly, which has been witness to recurrent communal riots, where the BSP fielded Muslims in four out of eight constituencies. Similarly in Gonda, she gave Muslim candidates in three of five constituencies, in Bahraich four in eight constituencies, in Siddharthnagar three in five and in Bijnore six in eight constituencies.
Incidentally, the BSP also became the first party to field a Muslim from Ayodhya, the nerve-centre of temple/mosque movement and a stronghold of the BJP which was conquered by the SP in 2012. An emotional Mulayam Singh Yadav had then said : ‘people have forgiven me for opening fire on kar sewaks to save the shrine in 1990.’
While Kanshi Ram used to travel by cycle to unite Bahujan Samaj against the upper caste, Mayawati has deployed her close lieutenant Naseemuddin Siddiqui to send her message of Dalit-Muslim ‘bhaichara’ in Muslim dominated constituencies.
Dr Narayan says, “Kanshi Ram did caste mobilisation as he had opportunity to unite scattered castes. But he also addressed Muslim rallies as they formed a part of their Bahujan Samaj.”
This is not the first time Mayawati is experimenting with communal politics.
She had failed in similar experiment in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In most of her rallies she used to exhort Dalits and Muslims to make ‘Dalit ki Beti’ India’s prime minister. And she used to draw parallel between the poor economic conditions of both Dalits and Muslims since country’s Independence in all public utterances and rallies.
She often says , ‘BSP is trying hard to give India its first Dalit prime minister – man or woman.’
Mayawati had then also done her arithmetic: Dalit-Muslim (21.1+18.5% of UP’s population) combination looked like a winning formula. In fact, as the party had fielded Dalits only in 17 constituencies, she used to tell Muslims it was their moral responsibility to support them to victory.
However, while Narendra Modi’s wave demolished all formulas and the BSP ended with a big zero, Dalits were upset.
Political expert M Hasan says, “Her very own ideological base, Agra, is under threat. Muslims are waiting for the SP feud to be over. They will move to the Cong-SP alliance as they want to stop Modi from coming to power in 2019.”
In 2017, as Brahmins did not respond to her political gestures, she decided to experiment the D-M card to give UP a ‘better administrator’.
However, the challenge is to convince the Muslims about her secular credentials 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.
Till the other day, the cadre vote were hardly concerned with whom the party allied or fielded whom, but today are being allured by others, namely the BJP. In other words, they have multiple choices.