Will she make it or won't she? The question keeps doing frenzied rounds.
Mayawati has always been a riddle for poll watchers in Uttar Pradesh. Her weaknesses are easy to identify, but not so the factors that work for her. She has no flamboyance to instantly impress a large audience, but numbers at her rallies are invariably nothing short of impressive. She reads from prepared texts and is not given to dramatic flourishes while at it, but her staidness has a certain reliability and self-assuredness to it. That is the reason she is never treated as a lightweight, and isn't written off by political rivals.
It's no different this time. She started off in a quiet manner, long before BJP and Samajwadi Party got into the poll mood, focussing on seats where BSP candidates had lost by low margins in 2012. To build a winning Dalit-Muslim combination, she selected candidates in Muslim dominated constituencies early. She also wooed the upper castes, trying to rehash the social engineering formula that worked well for her in 2007.
If everything had been constant in Uttar Pradesh's political landscape, she would be at poll position by this point. But there was the massive disrupter in the form of the 2014 general elections. A giant Narendra Modi wave smashed all caste and communal calculations in 2014, and left the core vote bank of Mayawati’s BSP vulnerable. A chunk of Dalit votes moved to the BJP. At this point it's not clear whether it was a temporary drift or a permanent shift.
The results on Saturday would reveal the reality and in many ways redefine Mayawati's politics. To begin with, she will have to re-engage with Dalits in a more meaningful way and consider seriously whether the "core" is adequate enough to sustain her politics, and by extension, Dalit politics.
However, nobody believes she is a spent force. For now she would like to accept 2014 as an aberration, not a true reflection of the dynamics of a caste-ridden state. Dalits have no option but to hang together to get the best bargain out of the democracy for themselves. The poll strategists of the party are assured of it. That is the reason they see the BSP as the chief contender on all the seats.
If she does not emerge victorious, she certainly will be king-maker. We have to wait and watch. Expect a different Mayawati post the results.
Updated Date: Mar 10, 2017 07:34 AM