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Elephant ready to charge

Nineteen years ago, the BSP joined the fray for the first time in the Rajasthan assembly elections. Although it took the party eight years to open its account in the state, it eyes a double-digit score this time. What makes Mayawati so confident? Srinand Jha examines...BSP in Rajasthan.

jaipur Updated: Oct 22, 2008 01:31 IST
Srinand Jha
Srinand Jha
Hindustan Times

“Jordar fight denge hukum (We will give a tough fight, sir)”, has become the new mantra for Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) cadres, as the party is getting ready to take on the main players — the Congress and the BJP. Mayawati's boys are all set to make a big dent into Rajasthan's bi-polarity this time.

Unlike some other states where the BSP may not go beyond playing the spoiler, in Rajasthan, it expects to improve its tally from two seats in a house of 200 members to a double-digit figure.

The BSP has been contesting elections in Rajasthan since 1990. It took eight years to open its electoral account by winning two seats in 1998. Unable to improve its tally in 2003, the party increased the number of seats it contested for from 52 in 1998 to 124 in 2003.

The BSP has a presence in north Rajasthan, which borders Uttar Pradesh. It expects to win some seats here, besides upsetting a few apple carts in the western Rajasthan belt of Sri Ganganagar district.

Meet Dharamvir Ashok, BSP's election manager who is upbeat even after a hectic day of campaigning well past midnight. He calls and a dozen-odd party workers appear from nowhere, armed with huge registers. They gave the latest on villages and towns. The BSP has come a long way in Rajasthan. Its election machinery is up and running.

While the Congress and BJP are struggling over their lists of candidates, the BSP started work about two years ago. It has already announced 190 candidates, who have got down to business. Add to that Mayawati's strategy of replicating the “inverted pyramid” model (read: wooing the upper caste), and the party could spring a few surprises this time.

Satya Narain Singh, formerly with the Rajasthan Backward Classes Commission, said the BSP might improve its tally by at least 10 seats this time, besides spoiling the game in around 30 constituencies.

Although Singh told HT,“The haathi (the elephant, BSP's symbol) is not running away with the loot entirely,” he conceded that the party's fortunes are looking up in Rajasthan. Echoed Professor R.K. Akodia, former member of the state's rights commission, saying, “dalit awareness is increasing”.

And make no mistake. This is despite the insinuations that BSP tickets are on offer to the highest bidders. Or that Mayawati's image is sullied. For, to the electorate - Dalits in particular - none of these matters.

But electoral arithmetic is complex. In Rajasthan, the Dalit vote space is overcrowded. BSP is pitched against Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party, the left parties and Dev Gowda's Janata Dal (Secular) alliance and a local outfit Teesra morcha — all vying for the seats that the BSP is eyeing.

But Mayawati's stance on several issues in the state put a question mark on her Dalit commitment. During the last last five years, Rajasthan has witnessed 22 incidents of police firing in which Dalits and minorities also were victims. But Mayawati chose to remain silent.

Also, her extending support to the Gujjars' demand for reservation has sent a wrong signal to the Dalits. “It's a political blunder,” said Kavita Srivastava, state secretary of the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL).

She said the Dalits are disenchanted with Mayawati for supporting the Gujjars, considered to be their traditional enemies. Worse still, Mayawati denied tickets to her two sitting MLAs, Murari Meena and Suresh Meena, as they had gone against the party line on the Gujjar issue.

First Published: Oct 21, 2008 23:59 IST