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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Why the Congress continues to woo Mayawati despite political snubs

Despite Mayawati’s public snubs, the Congress continues to court her and before every election, sends feelers for an electoral alliance. Despite Karnataka, the Congress once again made a futile attempt recently to ally with her in Haryana, where she has twice changed her poll partners in recent years. The Congress wanted to build a Jat-Jatav combination.

opinion Updated: Sep 13, 2019 14:25 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
It all started in 1999 when Sonia Gandhi drove to Mayawati’s Delhi residence with a bouquet of pink flowers to wish her on her birthday.
It all started in 1999 when Sonia Gandhi drove to Mayawati’s Delhi residence with a bouquet of pink flowers to wish her on her birthday.(Arijit Sen/HT Photo)
         

It’s a story of public hugs and snubs, bouquets and brickbats.

In 1999 and 2003, two telltale pictures had rattled political circles that many felt would change the country’s politics. The pictures were of Sonia Gandhi and Mayawati hugging each other in public despite the unpredictable political temperament of the latter.

The BSP had by then built a track record of ruthlessly picking and dumping allies as its founder president Kanshi Ram believed the party would grew from short-term governments.

And he was not off the mark completely as the BSP had earned long-term gains from short-term arrangements in Uttar Pradesh.

Maya’s first tenure in 1995 lasted 137 days (3 June 1995 to 18 October 1995), her second tenure was 184 days ( 21 March 1997 to 21 September 1997) and her third stint was one year 118 days (3 May 2002 to 29 August 2003). Electorally, the BSP grew from 11.12% in 1993 to 30.43% in 2007 when its leader Mayawati formed a majority government. By then she had betrayed the SP, the BJP and the Congress in Uttar Pradesh.

However, in its quest for electoral gains, the Congress ignored the BSP’s unreliability and till date continues to woo its leadership. Her vote is transferable and her party helps in building viable caste combinations in the states.

It all started in 1999 when Sonia Gandhi drove to Mayawati’s Delhi residence with a bouquet of pink flowers to wish her on her birthday. Pink is the colour Mayawati wears on the day she was born.

Mayawati has rarely attended dinners or opposition meetings convened by Gandhi, then or now. She diligently follows her political guru, Kanshi Ram, who often used to boast about his policy of not visiting any politician’s home or office. He often preferred a common place or a friend’s house for negotiations.

In 2003, Gandhi sent a bouquet of flowers to Mayawati after she heard that Kanshi Ram was admitted to hospital. She followed it up with a telephone call.

The Congress had, at the time, dismissed Gandhi’s overtures as gracious gestures, which, however, could not change the political equation between the Congress and the BSP as Mayawati went on snubbing the grand old party time and again. But that did not stop the Congress from wooing Mayawati.

This was unlike the BJP, which started appealing to her loyal voters with welfare schemes after Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. Prior to that, the BJP leaders had also become her ‘rakhi brothers’ in their bid to appease her.

Once again in 2018, Gandhi publicly embraced the leader of the Dalits at the swearing-in ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy in Karnataka where the opposition had displayed a show of unity. The BSP had one MLA and the embrace did not in any way boost the Congress’s prospects anywhere in the country.

Despite Mayawati’s public snubs, the Congress continues to court her and before every election, sends feelers for an electoral alliance. Despite Karnataka, the Congress once again made a futile attempt recently to ally with her in Haryana, where she has twice changed her poll partners in recent years. The Congress wanted to build a Jat-Jatav combination.

Let’s move beyond hugs. It’s history but many in the Congress remember it.

In 1996, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had obliged the Congress in Uttar Pradesh by entering into an electoral alliance for the assembly elections to 424 seats in an undivided Uttar Pradesh. However, the alliance failed to reach the majority mark and the state assembly was placed in suspended animation.

Within months, the BSP dumped the pre-poll electoral ally and joined hands with the BJP. That alliance gave the country a unique formula: a government to the people on a six-month rotational basis.

But even that did not last long as the BSP walked out on the BJP after completing its first six months in office.

Since then, the BSP has picked and dumped poll partners. Its latest victim was the Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh in the April-May general elections.

No other party woos her like the Congress today despite bitter experiences? Can Mayawati bring back the estranged Dalit supporters in the Congress fold when they are gravitating towards the BJP?