Taj Mahal city celebrates BSP win
Boisterous celebrations broke out on Friday in the Dalit areas of Agra as it became clear that Dalit Queen Mayawati is all set to become chief minister of Uttar Pradesh for a fourth time.
The sweeping victory of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) surprised even many of its supporters although there was widespread relief that the Mulayam Singh Yadav regime had been ousted.
"It is a mass reaction against Samajwadi Party's politics, and people without distinction of caste and class have voted against Mulayam," said Surendra Sharma, a senior citizen.
Agra has a fairly large population of Jatavs, a Dalit caste to which both BSP founder leader Kanshi Ram and Mayawati belong. The city is often described as the Dalit capital of north India.
Both Kanshi Ram and Mayawati have a soft corner for Agra and have been regular visitors. Naturally Agra expects a lot from Mayawati.
The BSP is set to win six of Agra's nine assembly constituencies. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won two.
Agra MP Raj Babbar's Jan Morcha proved a dismal failure, its role reduced to undercut Mulayam Singh Yadav and creating confusion in the Muslim voters' minds.
Groups of people in Loha Mandi, Jagdhishpura, Bodla, Gwalior Road and numerous Dalit areas of Agra's traditional shoemakers celebrated and rejoiced.
"The bands are out, loudspeakers are on full blast and people are distributing sweets," said Netra Pal Singh, a social activist working among the Dalits.
Mayawati's amazing performance is seen as a victory of the Election Commission, which ensured that there was no rigging.
The long and staggered election process was responsible for a fair poll and Dalits were able to vote all over the state without fear for the first time, BSP supporters said.
"The photo ID cards ensured that only genuine voters cast their votes," said a political worker of Agra East.
Political commentators said the BSP had largely replaced the Congress, which had enjoyed power for decades on the basis of support from Dalits as well as upper caste Brahmins.
"Mayawati has used the same formula of social engineering to advantage," said social activist Rajan Kishore.
Political analyst Narendra Singh said there was a vital difference though.
"While the Congress used the upper castes as the (train) engine and the lower castes as bogies, Mayawati has done the turnaround with Dalits being the engine and Brahmins the bogies," he said.