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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Mayawati loses political glamour, but the game is far from over | Opinion

“I am preparing her for the Prime Minister’s post”, said her mentor Kanshi Ram in a statement that further enthused her supporters.

opinion Updated: Aug 19, 2019 21:48 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
When Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati formed a majority government in Uttar Pradesh in 2007, she had broken a 14-year-long coalition jinx
When Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati formed a majority government in Uttar Pradesh in 2007, she had broken a 14-year-long coalition jinx(PTI Photo)
         

When Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati formed a majority government in Uttar Pradesh in 2007, she had broken a 14-year-long coalition jinx. Many believed a star was born in the Dalit community who could fill the vacuum left behind by late deputy prime minister Babu Jagjivan Ram.

She was firebrand and her community loved her for her aggressive tone, which some found abusive, against the ‘upper caste tormentors’. As she fought for their dignity, they saw in her someone with the potential to lead the country.

“She was unsparing in her actions and reactions as she did politics on her terms, picking and dumping partners at her sweet will,’ reminisces Ravi Kant who has been a firm supporter of the BSP in Meerut.

The BSP had grown from 67 seats that the party won in 1993 when it first experimented with an alliance with Samajwadi Party, to 206 seats in 2007. Its vote share too had almost trebled, from 11.12 per cent to 30.43 per cent.

Obviously pleased by her political brashness, her mentor Kanshi Ram had then declared he had bigger plans for her. “I am preparing her for the Prime Minister’s post”, said Kanshi Ram, a statement that further enthused her supporters.

And to achieve this, Mayawati needed to spread the party’s reach.

Thus soon after winning UP in 2007, she prepared a blueprint for Maharashtra where elections were due a few months later. Her two-fold plan was to build the party organization and social engineering. It was a leaf out of the UP experiment where the coming together of Brahmins, Dalits and Muslims had won her the crown.

The then party coordinator in Maharashtra Dr KK Sachan was upbeat. ‘The response is overwhelming among all sections of Dalits as well as lower OBCs. A big mass is joining the party. Dalits have taken a resolve to see her occupy the prime minister’s chair in 2009 Lok Sabha elections,” KK Sachan had said after touring Vidarbha.

The BSP’s target group in Maharashtra had included lower OBC’s, Marathas, Muslims and Brahmins. According to Sachan, even Dalits had realised that she alone could unite all sections - be it Bodhs, Matangs or Charmakars. The party had even circulated pamphlets quoting her: “Mere Bodh banne hetu, kendra ki satta par Bahujan Samaj Party ka raaj jaroori hai (It is important for BSP to rule the Centre for me to convert to Buddhism).

However, the euphoria created by her UP victory hardly unnerved the mainstream parties of Maharashtra. They found her social engineering relevant, but its architect /architecture irrelevant.

Now, in 2019 when several states including Maharashtra and Haryana are heading into assembly elections, Mayawati and her party have actually become politically irrelevant. She is no more in demand, though she has a friend in Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar,.

Mayawati, who is infamous for picking new poll partners as swiftly as she drops them, has already found her party a new partner; Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party, formed after split in Indian National Lok Dal in December 2018 in Haryana. She had contested the national elections in Haryana in alliance with Loktantra Suraksha while

The BSP had allied with INLD for the Lok Sabha elections. However before the state went to the polls it broke the alliance and found a new partner, in Loktanter Suraksha Party. Similarly the JJP had allied with AAP but parted ways soon after general elections polls. Now BSP and JJP have joined hands for the forthcoming polls.

In Maharashtra that is heading for a direct contest between two alliances - Congress-NCP and BJP-Shiv Sena in the October elections, Mayawati’s BSP will go solo. Even her party leaders concede that the BSP’s primary objective for now, appeared to be to retain the status of a national party.

Besides, word is that the fear of losing the national party’s label too haunts her.

Back in Uttar Pradesh too, Mayawati faces an existential crisis with her political glamour waning.

Ravi Kant, her supporter in Meerut, concedes he is thinking of exiting the party. ‘We moved from Congress to BSP. We may return to Congress if Mayawati fails to revive the party,’ he said.

Many feel she has become politically vulnerable. Some even perceive a BJP hand behind her recent actions such as supporting scrapping Article 370.

Besides, word is that the fear of losing the national party’s label too haunts her.

Her party has shrunk in the north and the future looks bleak after erosion in her vote bank. She went from zero to ten seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by forging an alliance with the Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party.

Since then, she not only snapped ties with the SP but decided to appoint a Muslim and Yadav as her state president and Lok Sabha leader, knowing her decision can hurt the 2019 poll partner. Both Yadavs and Muslims are the core supporters of SP.

She is lonely too as the other strong pillars of the party have collapsed. That has served to increase her dependency on her brother and nephew; she appointed one as vice president and the other, a central coordinator.

‘Many had joined the BSP as a mission when Kanshi Ram was alive. She either ejected them from the party system or they quit,’ said a senior party leader on condition of anonymity. Besides, she has been accused of not being accessible to her party cadres, many of whom have already started looking for other viable options. Her absence from the field is also eating into political capital.

“Kanshi Ram cycled miles and miles to expand the mission. Her appearances are seasonal as she comes out of her home only during elections, that too to address rallies. People want her amid them,’ said a party leader still hoping for party’s revival. That, he underlined, was conditioned on Behenji changing her elusive style of functioning.

Mayawati’s party also has been taking a hard hit due to the BJP’s ongoing membership campaign that focuses on three caste groups that owe allegiance to opposition parties – Yadavs, Muslims and Jatavs amongst the Dalits. Thus, not only she is losing leaders but also cadres and supporters.

Her politics is already seen to have lost her dreaded sting that used to rattle the bureaucracy and rivals and cement her own community behind her. And then, there are also a new generation of leaders such as Bhim Sena’s Chandrashekhar who have been nibbling away at her support base among Dalit.

Not surprisingly, Mayawati today doesn’t appear invincible any more. Her political experiments and tie-ups are not taking her any further, either in UP or in other states. Instead, questions are being raised on her credibility.

In her book Mere Sangharshmay Jeevan Evam Bahujan Movement ka Safarnaama, Mayawati had written, ‘Just as BSP today is a symbol of Bahujan Samaj’s dignity, Mayawati, in the opinion of intellectuals, has acquired such a standing in Indian politics wherein people may criticise her, even condemn her, but nobody can ignore her.’

With her votebank too shrinking, the statement may remain mere words. Already, her demand in political circles has gone down.

First Published: Aug 19, 2019 19:14 IST