The 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election verdict reads like a speaking order of the subalterns. It clearly stipulates that the social underdogs have found a safe refuge within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), at the expense of Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
If one looks at the voting trends closely, it becomes clear that the wheel has turned full circle this election. The near decimation of BSP clearly indicates that Dalits, which form a core constituency of the party, have deserted it lock, stock, and barrel. There is also a distinct possibility that this constituency will merge with the Hindutva identity, sooner than later.
For students of UP politics, this turnaround in the state's political scenario is quite intriguing. Remember the manner in which RSS-BJP lost out to a formidable coalition between SP-BSP, after the demolition of the Babri mosque. Since then, the Sangh Parivar has launched many ambitious projects to co-opt the Dalits into the Hindutva fold.
In 1993, all top Vishva Hindu Parishad leaders had lined up at the residence of Dom Raja (king of funeral ghats in Varanasi) to have a meal with Dalits. At the same time, BR Ambekdar was co-opted in the RSS pantheon as "pratah smarniya (to be revered in the morning)" to give it a pro-Dalit disposition.
But that project came a cropper as the BSP stood out against the Hindutva movement and maintained its distinct identity. Though Kanshi Ram was not as active as he was earlier due to health reasons, Mayawati inherited a strong cadre of workers drawn from government offices and a powerful political legacy.
She held out on her own and won the majority in the 2007 Assembly elections. Contrary to the Sangh Parivar’s agenda, she won over Brahmins and Rajputs, eating away at BJP’s support base.
In all these years, Mayawati desperately tried to retain an identity which is distinctly different from the larger narrative of Hindutva. That was the precise reason why she chose to give the largest share of tickets to Muslim candidates for this election, in order to build a formidable social coalition of Dalits. But the results show that her strategy recoiled on her. She not only lost out badly, but is now left fighting an existential crisis.
As of now, it would be next to impossible for her to get re-elected to Rajya Sabha, when her terms expires in 2018. With a tally of about 20-odd MLAs, she will hardly be a formidable force. By all indications, the iron lady of Uttar Pradesh has been reduced to a poor caricature of her past, with negligible political clout either in Lucknow’s state Assembly or in Parliament.
What appears to be a more worrying prospect for the BSP is the harsh reality that Mayawati cannot rebuild the party structure from scratch, like her mentor Kanshi Ram had done in the past.
Of course, at this stage in life, Mayawati is not expected to revitalise the political organisation and infuse the cadre with a political purpose. At the same time, the party lacked a group of committed cadre which used to exist during Kanshi Ram’s time. Since Mayawati has not built a second line of leadership within her own party, the prospect of the BSP withering away would shortly dawn on its workers.
But apart from this existential crisis, Mayawati is up against difficult times, on account of indiscretions on part of her brother Anand. The Enforcement Directorate has been investigating several cases against Anand, who is accused of running a huge empire of businesses under fictitious names. These cases are bound to have a bearing on Mayawati’s future politics. With a drastically reduced political clout, she will find it extremely difficult to retain her political relevance.
On the sociological front, the drift of OBCs and scheduled castes is expected to fulfill the Sangh Parivar’s political project of expanding the Hindutva umbrella and co-opting the marginalised sections of society. Given that this is BJP's largest ever vote share (around 44 percent), it is clear that the party got votes not only from upper castes but a large number of backward classes as well.
Indeed, for the first time, the BJP seems to have found unqualified support from social underdogs, who found the subversive political formulations of the Sangh Parivar more attractive that socialists or Ambedkarites. Though it is a great achievement for the BJP, it provides enough material for the anti-BJP forces to undertake some soul-searching. Perhaps they need to read the fine print of the speaking order from the subalterns in UP.
Updated Date: Mar 12, 2017 13:09 PM