UP: Mayawati set to take drastic steps as BSP struggles with existential crisis

Lucknow: It’s a now or never situation for Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati. On the verge of being redundant in the politics of Uttar Pradesh, the BSP leader is toying with the idea of a drastic revamp of the structure of her party, with an aggressive push for the induction of young and fresh faces. She is also trying to revive the Dalit-Brahmin combination once again to regain lost ground in the state.

UP: Mayawati set to take drastic steps as BSP struggles with existential crisis

BSP chief Mayawati is looking to revamp her party after the poor performance in Lok Sabha elections. Reuters

With a humiliating defeat in recent Lok Sabha elections, followed by a poor performance in Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections, many of BSP’s state and zonal leaders are now worried about their future in the party. According to sources, there is a likelihood that many party leaders and workers may head towards either the Bharatiya Janata Party or even the Samajwadi Party in the aftermath of the massive shake-up that Mayawati has planned.

“The party stares at the prospect of being pushed to the margins in Uttar Pradesh politics and those associated with it are no longer confident of any possible benefits such an association could bring to them,” said a veteran political observer. Sources close to BSP leaders say that many senior leaders may face the axe in the proposed revamp, while younger and more dedicated workers may be given senior responsibility. According to one report, the party leadership might even launch a drive to enroll young people in the party at the student level, following which they would be trained in special camps.

There is a strong likelihood that the party would aggressively raise the issue of Dalit ‘marginalisation’ in the state and national politics and seek greater empowerment for this class. “The thoughts of Dr Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram need to be disseminated afresh and more strongly to the new cadre,” said a source.

The next big challenge before the party is the 2017 Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh. Till last year, it was common belief that the SP and the BSP would share power in Uttar Pradesh alternatively since the two national parties – Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party – were weakened beyond redemption. This indeed had been the case too since 2004 when the SP was in power. In 2007 election, the BSP came to power. In 2012, it was the turn of SP. “But in 2017, the challenge posed by the BJP would be too strong for the BSP to overcome as of now,” said Ravindra Jaiswal, a political commentator. “The BSP in fact looks as if it is heading towards collapse, unless Mayawati takes some drastic steps.”

The BSP has collaborated with the BJP twice to form a government in Uttar Pradesh, and its decision to extend support to the BJP in Haryana assembly is also seen as a part of the long-term strategy formulated by Mayawati.

“It has been a standard practice of BSP to inch close to a big party and then quietly erode the former’s support base. After some time, the party creates a ruckus over any small issue and then moves away, taking with it large part of the bigger party’s vote base,” says a former legislator who quit the BSP some time ago. This happened during the BSP-BJP alliance over several years, resulting in the gross weakening of the BJP. It was only Modi’s charisma that could repair the damage to the party, without which the BJP would have fared poorly in last Lok Sabha election, said this leader.

“It is the BJP which now needs to be wary of BSP antics in Uttar Pradesh and other states,” says another former office-bearer of the state BJP. A report quoting a former bureaucrat who was instrumental in aligning Dalit politics in Uttar Pradesh, too, supported this contention. According to this report, it was because of the disproportionate assets case that is pending against Mayawati that she is trying to get close to the BJP. However, many other BSP sympathizers believe she is too focused on her future political path to risk any overshadowing by the BJP with a popular leader like Narendra Modi at the helm.

Despite the belief of many BSP leaders that it is too early to think that Mayawati has buried her ambition for the top post, the fact remains that the BSP stares at the possibility of being reduced to the status of a state level regional political party following its poor show in the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana. Coming a few months after its debacle in the recent Lok Sabha election, it may now seek time from the Election Commission to wait for the results of the Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections and Delhi assembly by-elections to try to regain the eligibility for a national party.

The Election Commission has already issued a show cause notice to the party, pointing out that the party had failed to fulfill the eligibility criteria of being a ‘national party’ status, and why this status should not be withdrawn. In response, the BSP had sought time till the Maharashtra and Haryana results.

The BSP had gained the ‘national party’ status in 2002. It has been fielding its candidates in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections from least a dozen states including Uttar Pradesh for the last more than 15 years.

In case the BSP status is reduced to a regional party, it will be heartening news for the ruling SP in Uttar Pradesh, since the latter has been trying to attain the ‘national’ status for long without success.

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Updated Date: Oct 28, 2014 13:47:34 IST

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