BSP's third ‘Sarvajan Hitaye, Sarvajan Sukhaye’ rally in Allahabad on Sunday was a roaring success. This is the third grand rally in a row that established the party's unquestionable supremacy in attracting crowds. Prior to this, two of its rallies were organised in Agra and Azamgarh respectively. This time, BSP made efforts to gather its supporters from Pratapgarh and Kaushambi for the Allahabad rally. The unique feature of the Allahabad rally was the party's attempt to forge a strong social coalition of Dalit-Muslim and showcase it through the rally.
Out of the 22 Vidhan Sabha seats of Allahabad, Pratapgarh and Kaushambi, seven seats have already been reserved for the Muslim candidates. Two candidates were constantly on the move in villages and slums along with local Dalit leaders and were inviting people for the rally. Their discussion with the people was indicative of the fact that BSP's strategy for the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha elections would be aimed at consolidating the support base. The Allahabad rally has proved beyond doubt that Mayawati would be a formidable front-runner in 2017 state assembly polls.
BSPs endeavour to strengthen the Dalit-Muslim alliance for the forthcoming 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections has not begun now. It had started its work two to three years back. BSP has made the Bhaichara Samitis to strengthen the Brahmin-Dalit alliance as a part of its social engineering strategy and spread it to the grassroots prior to 2017 elections. BSP is also working in the direction of forming a core team of the local and regional Dalit-Muslim leaders for spreading fraternal feelings at the grassroots, local and regional level for strengthening the Dalit-Muslim alliance. I had documented numerous such teams during my field work in western and central UP.
For spreading Dali-Muslim unity, BSP leaders also visited the Dalit and Muslim slums. After the Muzaffarnagar riots, BJP and SP also sent such teams in these slums. On visiting the Muslim slums, the local-level BSP leaders called BJP a riotous party that had joined hands with SP. They also assured people that there won’t be any riots after Mayawati’s comeback and that BSP would fight for the reservation of poor minority brothers.
In order to strengthen the Dalit-Muslim alliance, Mayawati also aims to provide tickets to more than hundred Muslim candidates in the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha elections. She feels that the Muslim candidates in these regions might lure the Muslim voters to cast their votes in her favour and the Dalits would no doubt cast votes in her name which, in turn, would strengthen the Dalit-Muslim alliance. The BSP strategists hold the view that the Dalit-Muslim alliance will not only have a positive effect on the Muslim voters in regions having Muslim candidature but will also spread positive vibes in the other Vidhan Sabha regions.
However, BSP may have to encounter a few possibilities and limitations of this strategy. The possibilities are that the population of UP comprises 21.6 percent Dalits and about 20 percent Muslims who (if they amalgamate) will make up around forty one percent. If maximum of the Dalit-Muslim votes get polarised in BSP's favour, then no one can stop the party from attaining victory. BSP's strategy has its limitations too. During communal tensions, there have often been clashes between the Dalits and Muslims. BSP will have to take steps to delete these bitter memories from the minds of the people. The second limitation that BSP may come across is that BJP may accuse BSP of Muslim polarisation and, in this process, will leave no stone unturned to create a big alliance of the remaining Hindu majority and make them stand against BSP.
However, both the kinds of alliances are a mere possibility now. We just have to wait and watch how true they turn out to be.
(The writer is a teacher in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.)