Maya’s progress: From bahujan to sarvajan

Lucknow: From bahujan to sarvajan – the BSP under Mayawati has undergone several strategic transitions in the last two decades. Her politics may be rooted deep in Dalit identity but it is far more inclusive in character than it is perceived to be. A look at the changing slogans of the party explains the transition.

1989: Tilak, tarazu aur talwar, inko maro joote char
(Hit the Brahmins, Thakurs, and Banias with shoes)

1996: Brahmin, thakur, bania chhor, baaki sub hain DS 4.
(Barring the Brahmins, Thakurs, Banis everyone is DS4 -- Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti, an umbrella organisation of oppressed castes)

2002: Brahmin saaf, thakur half, bania maaf
(Finish off the Brahmins, Thakurs could be pardoned, Banias are forgiven)

These elections she has given 88 tickets to the Dalits, 85 to Muslims and religious minorities, 74 to Brahmins, 33 to Thakurs. As many as 113 seats are for candidates from backward communities. AFP

2007: Hathi nahin Ganesh hai, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hai
(It is not just an elephant, it is the symbol of Ganesh, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh)

2009: Sarva samaj ke samman mein Behenji maidan mein
(Behenji in the electoral field respects all people)

2012: Sarva Jan Hitaya, Sarva Jan Sukhaya
(In the interest of all and happiness for all)

In 1989, it was an extremely aggressive position which softened considerably in 1996. In 2002, Banias and Thakurs were in the BSP’s scheme of expansion, and in 2007, the inclusion of all castes was nearly complete. In 2012, Mayawati is keen on sticking to the sarvajan formula. That makes her more than a Dalit icon; she is now a legitimate leader of the masses.

In 2007, in a clear signal that she was not relying on the exclusive Dalit agenda and is open to including other castes she had coined the slogan Jiski jitni sankhya bhaari, uski utni bhagidari, meaning representation in government will be decided on which caste polls how many votes.

The distribution of tickets reflected her change in approach. Of its 402 candidates 86 were Brahmins, 91 Dalits, 38 Vaishyas, 38 Rajputs and 60 Muslims. Strategic voting by these castes resulted in her getting 206 seats. Besides securing more than 70 percent of Dalit votes, she bagged a decent share of upper caste votes as well as non-Yadav OBC votes and Muslims votes.

The role of the Dalit-Muslim-Brahmin combo in her victory is a myth the media has bought hook, line and sinker. But the reality is her support base is far widespread. She has proved to herself to be a brilliant strategist, a credit not many are willing to give her. In 2012, she has stuck to the same formula. She has given 88 tickets to the Dalits, 85 to Muslims and religious minorities, 74 to Brahmins, 33 to Thakurs. As many as 113 seats are for candidates from backward communities.

Does that make her a genuine sarvajan leader? Well, the jury is still out.

"The sarvajan idea does not belong to Mayawati. She is only following the roadmap prepared by her mentor Kanshiram, who was a good strategist," says Zaheer Mustafa, editor of Lucknow’s oldest Urdu daily, In Dino. "Yes, she has done a good job at reaching out. She has given 85 seats to Muslims. Not a bad deal for the community at all, which represents 19 percent of the population," he adds.

Mayawati has taken the extra step to keep her sarvajan following happy. After reports of the rampant misuse of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 by members of Dalit communities, she has issued oral instruction to the police to stop registering FIRs under the Act, barring cases of serious offences like murder and kidnapping.

It is not a good solution and has not made Dalits happy but it certainly has provided some respite from reverse harassment to the upper castes. That she has failed to match the expectations and aspirations of her new supporters is another issue.

Asked why she should still be called just a Dalit leader, Musatafa reluctantly agrees that she has grown beyond Dalit politics. "Jiski jitni sankhya bhaari, uski utni bhagidari is a fair idea, on paper at least,’’ he says, adding, "The new support base is fickle though. The Brahmins are already serious about quitting her. Using people for electoral advantage is one thing and meeting their expectations is quite another.’’

On her part, Mayawati seems to have done a good job by putting the party in the transition mode. She would take some time to perfect the sarvajan experiment. This is not likely compensate her many failures as chief minister but it would certainly make her much more than a Dalit leader.

Updated Date: Feb 15, 2012 16:35 PM

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