Mayawati climbs aboard the dynasty bandwagon

Mayawati’s rally in Meerut was surprising not because of the presence of her brother Anand Kumar – who is an old hand at her side – but for the introduction of her nephew, 23-year-old Akash Kumar.

opinion Updated: Sep 22, 2017 14:09 IST
Mayawati,Mayawati Meerut Rally,Dynasty politics
Meerut: BSP supremo Mayawati being garlanded at party workers' meeting in Meerut on Monday. PTI Photo(PTI9_18_2017_000061A)(PTI)

Dynasties are once again dominating the political discourse. The BJP’s senior leaders have taken Rahul Gandhi head on for his comments questioning why people should get after him when dynasties are a fact of life in India — be it in politics, in business or in professions.

And now comes Mayawati’s launch of her family at her recent rally in Meerut, at the first public meeting she held since she lost the elections in Uttar Pradesh.

It was surprising not because it marked a turnaround in her earlier position of denouncing dynasties. Nor was the presence of her brother Anand Kumar new, for she had named him as the party’s vice-president in April, and though she had clarified he would not stand for any elected position, clearly he was expected to officiate at the BSP meetings in her absence. In any case, he has been her acknowledged fund manager for over a decade and is a known face in UP’s political circles. But, so far, he had maintained a low profile, and whenever journalists greeted him, he would greet them in return but say very little else.

It was the introduction of her nephew, 23 year old Akash Kumar, which took many by surprise though he had accompanied Mayawati recently to Saharanpur, the scene of violence against Dalits by Thakurs which had sent shock waves through the Dalit community.

With her “formal” introduction of her brother and nephew at the Meerut rally, where they made a calculated entry on the stage waving to the audience, Mayawati sent a clear message to her party cadre about her successors.

The reasons why Mayawati may have decided to fall back on her family are not far to seek. The BSP is facing an existential crisis today, as it notched up a dismal 19 seats in the March elections.

The Dalits, and this includes a smattering of her own community of Jatavs, veered around to the BJP in 2014 and in 2017; and if there is one community the BJP is eyeing with 2019 in mind, it is the Dalits, notwithstanding Saharanpur, Una, and Rohith Vemula, which has led to anguish amongst several sections of Dalits. It is not surprising therefore that BJP chief Amit Shah has made a point of eating in Dalit homes in state after state.

Mayawati has also lost many of her topmost and trusted lieutenants in the last one year. Besides, she would be worried about the new challenges she now faces. not just from a BJP on the rampage, but also from the new forces on the rise like the Bhim Sena, particularly active in western UP, with an appeal to younger Dalits who are disenchanted with Mayawati’s old style of functioning, with power concentrated in her hands alone.

Hence the entry of Akash Kumar.

He is young, a management graduate from London, who the “bua” hopes will have an appeal for the young Dalit voter. In Saharanpur he was seen talking to people, commiserating with families who had suffered in the violence, promising them succour. Will it work?

Over the years, leaders have increasingly turned to their family members to manage the big money generated through political activity, as they are found to be more trustworthy than even the closest of colleagues. The generation of big money has also given a fillip to dynastic politics in India.

There could be another factor for why Mayawati felt compelled to rope in her family. In case of arrest – and there are cases against her and also against Anand Kumar – there would be someone “reliable” to take charge of the party in her absence.

Today the reins of many a party are moving into the hands of the younger generation. This is also the case in the crucial Ganga belt , be it Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Tejesawi (RJD) and now Akash Kumar though it is early days yet for him. They may well join hands in 2019, though there is no move forward so far on the coming together of the SP and the BSP, which could alter the political landscape in UP.

Even as the BJP has found another issue to flog Mayawati with — the BJP may well make dynastic rule versus merit and opportunity an issue in 2019. This could have an appeal to the younger voter – dynasty may not be a factor likely to perturb her cadre. Nor, for that matter, has it agitated people in rural areas. This too is an Indian reality, at least so far.

Neerja Chowdhury is a senior journalist and political commentator

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Sep 22, 2017 14:09 IST