Mayawati is struggling to stay relevant in UP; BSP open to a Grand Alliance to counter BJP

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati has eventually come back to the path tread by all other major political parties in the state as well as rest of India. Having started off on the promise of providing a viable and muscular alternative to the downtrodden and the excluded classes of society in the early 1990s, Mayawati has joined the bandwagon of those parties whose sole reason for survival (and political business) is to “save democracy” from another big party.

File image of BSP chief Mayawati. PTI

File image of BSP chief Mayawati. PTI

It was widely expected that in her latest show on Dr BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary in Lucknow on 14 April, Mayawati would make some major announcement to mark the presence of her party.

At present, the political space in UP is occupied by the Bharatiya Janata Party with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath hogging the national headlines for nearly three weeks at a stretch.

The ousted chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his fractured Samajwadi Party is trying hard to remain in the limelight by giving out calls for unity and resolve which the other SP heavyweight Shivpal Yadav is apparently ignoring.

Amid all this, SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav has been relegated to the background, much as the Congress which recorded an extremely poor show in the recent Assembly election.

In the run-up to the election, the BSP was widely perceived to be a strong contender to return to power, firstly in view of the traditional alternation of the SP and BSP in UP since the late 1990s, and secondly in the context of the fissures within the SP that put paid to Akhilesh’s chances of retaining power.

However, the steady defections of heavyweight leaders from the BSP, and their repeated allegations that money was demanded in lieu of election tickets, damaged the party’s image. The gambit by Mayawati to field nearly 100 Muslim candidates also did not go down well with the people. As a result, the party strength has been reduced to 19 in a house comprising 403 MLAs.

Faced with the grim prospect of falling off the people’s perception, Mayawati has been making loud noises about rigging in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and her party has decided to observe 11th of every month (a reminder that the election results were announced on 11 March) as a statewide protest day. At the 14 April event in Lucknow, she made some significant points in her address.

First, she named her brother Anand Kumar as party’s vice-president. This goes against her constant criticism of promoting family members and nepotism. In fact, this was a major reason why her erstwhile confidant Swami Prasad Maurya left the party: He'd reportedly sought tickets for his family members. She had even specifically prohibited her party leaders and workers to come to her with requests to promote their family members. Although she later clarified that Anand Kumar will not hold a public office and also will not contest elections, the message is clear.

Incidentally, Anand Kumar emerged as a power centre whenever Mayawati was in power. He has also been involved in many controversies regarding his financial assets and is also being probed by the Enforcement Directorate. By naming him as second in-command, Mayawati is looking to provide him with political protection. Any action against him could well be termed as an attack on the Dalits and their party.

Second, she said she was ready to join hands with any party (and that includes Samajwadi Party) in order to “save democracy” apparently from the “clutches” of the BJP. The BSP seems resigned to the fact that it remains merely one of those parties for whom the sole reason for existence is to oppose the BJP. Having started off on a promising premise of Dalit empowerment, the BSP in its heyday looked almost invincible with its Dalit support base.

The party was in and out of alliances with the SP and the BJP followed by a deep distrust of both. The BSP having been in power four times made Dalits rethink whether this experiment was in their best interests. Now, with its keenness to ally with the Congress, SP and other parties, BSP is no longer a “Dalits-first” outfit.

Third, she said she had a problem with speaking out aloud and that is why she always read out prepared speeches. She said, “One of the two glands in my throat was removed by doctors in an operation and so I cannot stress my throat too much,” adding that she had to work very hard, first writing her speech and then reading it. She said she was doing it on “medical advice” by doctors.

It is remarkable that she has been reading out from prepared texts for the last many decades, whether she spoke at election rallies, press conferences or other occasions. Even though it caused some curiosity among onlookers and the audience, she never offered an explanation. Now, as she and her party face a severe crisis, she has come out with a reason that could well be an attempt to seek her supporters’ sympathy.

Fourth, Mayawati alleged that most of the huge monuments constructed during her previous administrations were in bad shape. She said their roofs were leaking, their plaster had peeled off, many fittings and doors had been ripped off and plundered, and no maintenance work was being done. She said she would submit a report in this regard to the UP government and seek proper upkeep of the monuments, which were symbols of Dalit pride.

And lastly, she also referred to the recent reports that the Yogi Adityanath government had ordered inquiry into the sale of sugar mills and construction of memorials under her government. She said the order on sugar mills had been issued by her minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui but the decision was taken by the Cabinet.

With her conciliatory approach towards other parties, Mayawati would expect those parties to support her cause in order to maintain her relevance in state politics, since a foray into national politics seems all but lost for the time being.

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Updated Date: Apr 15, 2017 16:01:35 IST

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