It is a Mayawati poll-drowned Uttar Pradesh is not familiar with – quiet in her backyard, active beyond.
Her uncharacteristic approach to Mandate 2014 is being attributed to her pan-India plans for more clout in New Delhi. But political analysts feel this could be counter-productive, as the BJP has gone ballistic in a bid to take control of her communally-charged, polarised bastion of West UP. And they have a word of caution for her: your position at the Centre depends on how BSP performs in UP.
The politically and socially awakened dalits of western UP are getting 'saffronised' in the new touchy environment, further ignited by Congress leader Imran Masood's hate-speech against Narendra Modi and his subsequent arrest.
Social scientist Badri Narain, of Dalit Resource Centre, says, "They (dalit) Jatavs started progressing much before partition. And under BR Ambedkar's umbrella, they grew economically, acquired land and money. The BSP thus got a fertile area and it stoked their political ambitions and aspirations."
The rise of BSP coincided with the Ram temple movement of BJP. The BJP's graph dipped after the demolition of the disputed structure in 1992 while the dalit-Muslim combination in western UP boosted BSP. The Muslims, however, had in 2004 helped Samajwadi Party win seven of 10 seats in that belt though its core vote of Yadavs is negligible there.
Post Muzaffarnagar riots, Hindutva slogans lured the Jatavs but some desperate steps taken by Mayawati helped check the exodus. Now, while BJP is going from door to door and holding mega rallies, her first visit is scheduled on April 3, a week before the 10 seats including riot-torn Muzaffarnagar go to the polls (phase 1).
Mawayati, incidentally, has avoided Muzaffarnagar and this has not gone down well with the Muslims.
The dalit-Muslim combination saw BSP winning five of the 10 seats in 2009 while BJP and Rashtriya Lok Dal won two each and Congress one. Among BSP's five was Muzaffarnagar where the margin of victory was about 20,000 votes, considered narrow in a constituency of 16 lakh voters.
Muzaffarnagar has changed parties every election – Congress in 1999 and SP in 2004. So in order to retain the seat, Mawayati needs the votes of the 4 lakh Muslims and 2.10 lakh Jatavs since RJD and BJP have hold over the other dominant castes such as Jat, Thakur and Bania. The story is similar for Saharanpur, Kairana, Gautambudh Nagar and Aligarh where the communal divide is apparent.
Many feel the Muslim mood can be gauged after the first phase of polling, as was the case with the 2012 assembly polls. But they are not sure why Mayawati is playing the fiddle outside while her 'Rome' (western UP) is burning.