"Main akela hi chala tha janibe manzil magar;
Log paas aate gaye aur karwan banata gaya" — Majrooh Sultanpuri
Indeed, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founded by an otherwise nondescript loner from Punjab known as Kanshiram on 14 April, 1984, with a handful of people has, by now, grown into a political powerhouse in Uttar Pradesh. Its caravan of active members riding elephants is rather huge. And the party’s presiding chieftain, Mayawati, is seen blazing the campaign trails in a no-holds-barred electoral fight to grab governance in Lucknow for a record fifth time.
It was not for nothing that former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao had described her rise from obscurity to eminence as a “miracle of Indian democracy”. And Time magazine placed her prominently in the list of India’s 15 most influential persons not too long ago.
Even Forbes placed her in the 59th position in its list of 100 most powerful women in the world in 2008. Newsweek too placed her in its list of top women achievers. Indeed, she is very influential.
Didn’t you notice what happened to Dayashankar Singh in the aftermath of his much-publicised vulgar comments? The Narendra Modi government was made to apologise on the floor of the parliament. And the BJP, on its part, had to beat a rather uncharacteristic hasty retreat. Dayashankar Singh was, then and there, expelled from the party. But Mayawati and her lieutenants persisted with their ranting and raving about the episode.
Let’s give the readers of the Firstpost a little bit of historical perspective: Mayawati beats her political bête noire, Mulayam Singh Yadav, by a mile. She has been chief minister of the state four times compared to Mulayam Singh and ND Tiwari, who could adore the UP CM’s chair only thrice. In achievement and aura of invincibility, she perhaps comes only next to Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, who was prime minister of United Provinces headquartered at Allahabad twice (from 1937 to 1939 and again from 1946 to 1950) and chief minister of Uttar Pradesh twice (from 1950 t0 1952 and from after the first general elections in 1952 to 1954).
But despite the accolades that Mayawati received from within India — and abroad as well — her party continues to be one of the most underrated political entities. The BSP has always been belittled by self-styled political observers and psephologists, especially in the run up to elections. Majority of UP watchers, including BJP president Amit Shah and those who conduct opinion polls believe that it’s a fight between the SP and the BJP this time. The BSP and the Congress would, in their view, be relegated to the third and fourth spots.
Forget all the propaganda material; let’s view the BSP’s meteoric rise on the canvas of UP assembly elections dispassionately. Right from the time it became a serious player in 1993, its vote share has been on the upswing: the party bagged 11.12 percent votes in 1993. Just two years later, the vote share jumped to 19.64 percent. And in the next two elections in 2002 and 2007, the party got 23.06 percent and 30.43 percent votes respectively. The BSP lost to the SP in 2012. But still, it could manage to get as much as 26 percent votes, hardly three-and-a-half percentage points away from the SP’s 29.12 percent votes.
But wait a minute and look back at Mayawati’s characteristic style of political manouvering. You’ll marvel at her antics and tactics. She aligned with Mulayam Singh in 1993 and shared power for all practical purposes. She abruptly parted company with her ally, following the infamous 'state guest house incident' that had rocked Lucknow like never before and, instead, aligned with the BJP to form a government. She ditched the BJP later. She befriended the saffron outfit in 1997 and 2002 again. She abandoned the ally sooner than later when it suited her.
Yes, like Otto von Bismarck of Germany, Mayawati had, over the years, mastered the art of keeping both friends and foes on tenterhooks all the time. And she succeeded at her game. If you recall, Mayawati, in her later years, skilfully weaned away over to her side, the Brahmin vote-bank of the BJP. The saffron camp was left high and dry. The BJP could win only 47 seats with 15 percent votes in 2012.
For the ensuing assembly elections, the BSP supremo is working on an altogether different strategy. She is busy giving shape to a Dalit-Muslim consolidation in her favour. And don’t be surprised if she succeeds once again. The fact that four prominent Muslim legislators — one from the SP and three others from the Congress — have formally crossed over to her party might give you some inkling of a Dalit-Muslim consolidation taking place in UP.
The four new entrants into the BSP are: Mohammad Muslim, who represents the Tiloi constituency in Amethi, Kazim Ali Khan from Swar in Rampur, Dilnawaz Khan, who comes from Syana in Buland Shahar, and Nawazish Alam Khan from Budhana in Muzaffarnagar.
The recent activities of self-styled cow vigilantes in different parts of the country are only helping Mayawati’s cause. Her Dalit vote bank, which was about to crumble under BJP’s pressure, looks solid once again. And the fact that more and more Muslims are joining her caravan is an icing on the cake. And as far as Brahmins are concerned, they are looking towards the Congress as an option.
Isn’t it time to wait for even more engrossing optics? And perhaps path-breaking politics too?