By Ratan Mani Lal
Lucknow: The principle of early mover advantage may not hold true always in Indian politics. The massive rally by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati in Lucknow on her birthday on Wednesday—the first by her in the past many months—amply proved it by sending out a strong message that her support base was intact and she was prepared to go it alone for Lok Sabha 2014.
More than two lakh people had gathered to listen to Mayawati on a cold, windy day at the vast Ramabai Ambedkar maidan. The size of the crowd matches favourably with the rallies held by Narendra Modi, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi in the state in the past couple of months.
Mayawati had campaigned widely for the assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh but the party did not fare too well in these states. But on her birthday she re-assured her followers in Uttar Pradesh that she was back in the reckoning with a bang.
In her two-hour long she admitted that a "grand alliance" against BSP by casteist parties was responsible for the poor showing of her party in the three states, and gave out a clear signal that the party will go it alone in the Lok Sabha battle. This comes amid speculations in the past few weeks that the Congress was keen on an alliance with the BSP.
Over the past one year, as the popularity and credibility of the Samajwadi Party and its government in Uttar Pradesh has steadily declined and the Congress has repeatedly proved itself to be a non-starter, it was considered a fair possibility that the contest in coming Lok Sabha election may turn out to be between BSP and BJP.
Mayawati gave credence to this by devoting a significant part of her speech to the BJP, saying that Narendra Modi was "far ahead" of all others in the race for prime ministership. In fact she took Modi’s name at least ten times when she mentioned all the major poll promises of the BJP one by one - creation of more jobs, encouragement to industry, return of black money, cleaning of the Ganga and erection of Sardar Patel’s statue. She then said that these were "empty promises" and accused the BJP of conspiring to implicate her in the Taj corridor case. She revealed that in 2004 she had moved away from BJP as it wanted to contest the lion’s share of seats in Lok Sabha election in Uttar Pradesh.
Mayawati not only repeated her claim to be the only party and leader who is a true well-wisher of the Dalits, but also cautioned her followers to stay away from the Aam Admi Party. For her, Arvind Kejriwal’s move to put everyone—including Dalits—in the category of aam admi is grave injustice. "By putting Dalits along with baniyas and other castes in the category of aam admi, the party is not giving them the status they deserve, for they have been oppressed for long. The government in Delhi has done nothing new by giving free water and reducing electricity tariff, as the burden on others will increase," she said.
The BSP supremo referred to the oppression on Dalits in Haryana, "the home state of Arvind Kejriwal" as an example of that party’s lack of concern for Dalits.
Another section which she wooed quite vocally was Muslims. She said that Muslims had suffered the most during the present SP rule in a number of riots. "While they suffered in Muzaffarnagar, the Samajwadi Party leaders and the government celebrated with dance and music,” she said, and appealed to the Muslims to support BSP for the Lok Sabha election as the minorities have felt "most secure in our rule".
She accused Samajwadi Party of running a mafia government in Uttar Pradesh. "The state has turned into a crime pradesh," she said, demanding the imposition of President’s rule. She also lashed out at the Congress-led UPA government, and blamed it for inflation, economic slowdown, price rise, rising unemployment, growing disparity in society, policy paralysis, threat to internal security and a weak foreign policy.
Mayawati said that in view of BSP’s strength, all parties had joined forces to prevent her, "a Dalit woman", from rising in politics. She called upon her supports to go out and tell everyone about this "conspiracy".
It had been reported for quite some days that Mayawati would celebrate a low-key birthday to show solidarity with the riot victims, but the arrangements made for the rally are no less than grand. An entire mini-city has come up near the rally venue where arrangements for stay, food and transport for lakhs of people have been made. The party has booked 27 special trains to ferry people from all states to Lucknow and back. The entire city has been decked in the BSP’s blue colour and huge hoardings, banners and flags have been put up across the city. Taking a dig at the massive arrangements, Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav has said this was a strange way to show austerity.