Can Mayawati become India’s first Dalit prime minister?
If Ms Mayawati is truly serious about her prime ministerial claim, it is also time for her to start sharing her national vision and outlining a set of policies that she would push as the PM. It is only when she has both number and credibility on her side that she can get in 2019 what she did not in 2009Updated: May 08, 2019 09:26 IST
It may have been a matter of informed speculation. But the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo, Mayawati, has now given her clearest indication yet that she is a contender for the post of the prime minister (PM). By declaring that, if all goes well, she will contest bypolls from Ambedkar Nagar — a constituency she has represented in the past — Ms Mayawati sent a signal to her support-base, the voters of the grand alliance in Uttar Pradesh (UP), other regional parties, the Congress and the nation at large that she wants the country’s top political job. With her ally, Samajwadi Party(SP)’s Akhilesh Yadav, claiming that the next PM will be from UP but not from Varanasi, he too has lent his support to Ms Mayawati’s prime ministerial ambitions.
It is truly a tribute to Indian democracy that a Dalit woman, leading what is a party of marginalised communities, can aspire to lead the country. It is an even more remarkable tribute to our electoral democracy — and its systems of checks and balances — that a leader who had no seat in the last Lok Sabha and performed poorly in her own state assembly elections can become a serious contender for the post. To be sure, this is not the first time Ms Mayawati has thought of herself as the PM candidate. Riding high on the 2007 assembly victory in UP, she tried to bring together a constellation of regional and Left forces in the 2009 elections and projected herself as PM. On that occasion, she did not succeed.
But there is still a long road ahead for Ms Mayawati if she wants to realise her ambition this time around. For one, this will hinge on how well her alliance does in UP. The SP-BSP will have to truly decimate the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and restrict it to fewer than 20 seats or so, for her claim to be taken seriously nationally. Second, she will need to win the support of other regional forces — from Mamata Banerjee to K Chandrashekar Rao, from Naveen Patnaik to Sharad Pawar, from Tejashwi Yadav to YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. And finally, even though she has fought bitterly against the Congress in this campaign, she will need to rebuild her bridges with Rahul Gandhi because the Congress will be a decisive player in any non-BJP formation. This will not be easy as the Congress sees her as a competitor for Dalit votes in UP as well as in the rest of the country. The arithmetic aside, if Ms Mayawati is truly serious about her claim, it is also time for her to start sharing her national vision and outlining a set of policies that she would push as the PM. It is only when she has both numbers and credibility on her side that she can hope to pull off in 2019 what she could not in 2009.
First Published: May 07, 2019 19:40 IST