Voters display their identity cards as they wait to cast their votes at a polling station, during the 3rd phase of UP assembly polls in Allahabad. (PTI Photo)
Peons at an office in Kanpur last week had a spontaneous evening celebration — the occasion was local brew becoming cheaper.
“The retailers used to take Rs. 15 more than the written price of Rs. 50 per pouch,” says Suresh Kashyap. “Initially we questioned, but it was of no use and it was happening across UP.”
Kashyap links the sudden drop in prices to the “imminent exit of Mayawati”.
The illegal tax on liquor has been a constant theme in all speeches of SP leader Akhilesh Yadav — who calls it ‘shaam ki dawai’ — trying to cash in on this issue that cuts across castes and classes. Even foreign liquor sells far above MRP in UP, and is the most heard complaint against BSP leader Mayawati, who is seeking a second a five-year term as CM.
Ajay Kamal — a bright, articulate 19-year-old, belonging to the Dalit Kori community — has more reasons to be angry with Mayawati: “She tried to move us from the Dalit category to backward category.”
In the Mandhaar neighbourhood in Kanpur rural, there is yet another complaint against the Dalit leader. Guddan, a Rajput, has been appointed sweeper of the village as part of a state government scheme.
“This used to be our livelihood. Now a Rajput is making Rs. 8,000 every month while we are jobless,” says a Suresh, a Valmiki.
This scheme — perhaps originally intended to help Dalits — has created a lot of resentment as several upper castes applied and got in. In many places they outsource the work to a Dalit at a fraction of their salary.
All this, however, does not suggest any serious erosion in the Dalit base of Mayawati. “Dalits will mostly stay firm with the BSP though Congress has made some inroads,” says SP Singh, teacher at Christ Church College in Kanpur.
Allegations of corruption against the Maya regime have stuck among all others. “Mayawati by erecting her own statues has consolidated Dalits, but has drawn revulsion of all other social groups,” says Nripen Mishra, a teacher in Allahabad.
Maywati compares badly with other CMs who managed to win a consecutive term such as YS Rajsekhara Reddy in Andhra, Narendra Modi in Gujarat, Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Sheila Dikshit in Delhi and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh.
All of them consolidated their core social support with governance interventions in their first term; created a personal image of being incorruptible and effective; and deflected the residual anti-incumbency feelings by denying tickets to a good number of sitting MLAs.
Maya has tried to overcome the strong and visible anti-incumbency by denying nomination to half of her 206 legislatures, but that doesn’t look enough.