BSP chief Mayawati’s announcement that her Bahujan Samaj Party would contest the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and other assembly elections all alone has not come as surprise. What has been really intriguing is her accusing the Congress and Samajwadi Party of spreading rumours about a “possible tie-up” with the BJP in the run up to national general elections and other state elections. If what she says is to be relied, her real thrust is that these two parties are trying to win over the traditional support base of her party. BSP.
An insight into her long political career would make it explicit that Mayawati never adopted a steady ideological and political line on the issues that haunted and scared the Dalits. She claims that she worked for their social and cultural empowerment but looking at her contribution to dalit society, it is confirmed beyond doubt that she has been resorting to mere posturing. She has always preferred to refrain from organising the Dalits and lead them from the front to realise their rights and acceptance of their identity. The real reason has been her constraint not to pursue a fight against exploitation of the Dalits.
Her unwillingness to wage a struggle against the oppression of the Dalits, reflects her refusal to realise the fact that Dalits still survive under the shadow of threat of the upper caste political and economic hegemony. This stance of her has made the Dalits now not to accept her as their leader. True enough it would be unwise to imagine that she or her party would fight the upper caste repression and torture. The fact is BSP didn’t emerge out of revolutionary struggles like that of the Dalit Panthers. Most BSP members were from the BAMCEF (Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation) so it was somewhat natural that they opted confused ways.
Though Kanshi Ram the founder of BAMCEF organised the Dalits to stake their claims, Mayawati pursued the path of amicable understanding purely for the electoral gains. In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Mayawati had entered into a pre-poll alliance with the Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Yadav and managed to win 10 Lok Sabha seats. However, she soon broke the alliance accusing the SP of “failing” to transfer its core voters towards her party candidates. SP had bagged only five seats in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Obviously her accusation that other alliance parties failed to transfer their vote bank in favour of the BSP is unsustainable.
She wants a firm commitment from other parties to help her. But is not willing to assure them of her help. Politics is not one way affair. In fact her decision to go alone is meant to create pressure on others to succumb to her diktat. She also made one silly claim that she would contest the assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh Karnataka and Telangana on her own. Undeniably in these states Dalits constitute the sizeable portion of the population, but they are not the supporters of her BSP. They ate allied to local outfits which represent dalit aspirations.
What has made her suspect in the eyes of Dalits is her love and hate relations with the BJP. Her attitude towards BJP has forced the people to describe her BSP as the B-team of BJP. Yet another feature which she never narrate in public is the massive shift in dalit voters towards BJP. It is the consequence of her strive for winning the Brahmins. The dalits who had shifted their loyalty to BJP, preferred to continue with the BJP instead of coming back to BSP and allow them to be used by Mayawati in future purely for her political gains. This was a major setback for her.
At a time when Dalits badly need her support, she is seen standing with the BJP. It is a paradox that dalits are caught in a very complex situation. While Mayawati is unwilling to come to streets, they cannot muster enough courage to rebel against the upper caste, who are the fulcrum of state power. In his backdrop obviously Chandra Shekhar Azad Ravan has emerged on the political horizon as the saviour. His emergence has in fact threatened Mayawati. It was expected of her that Uttar Pradesh would witness emergence of dalit movement under Mayawati, but it not materialise as she preferred to walk a centrist anti-confronting political structure. Caste system places Dalits not just at the very bottom of society but fully outside of it, deeming a community of 200 million people impure and unworthy of social rights. Obviously the Dalits cannot expect that the upper caste people would voluntarily come forward to help them.
It is not that Dalits are happy with the Narendra Modi government or endorse Modi and RSS views that they are Hindus, but they are not in the position to ventilate their views and grievances. In fact they are angry at the Narendra Modi government’s anti-Dalit policies and are looking for some aggressive leadership. Distressed at Mayawati stand, they are now looking towards Azad. The manner in which they are rallying behind Azad it implies that Dalits are ready to fight their battle and they are looking for a competent leader, which Mayawati is certainly not. Azad gained popularity in 2017 after hosting protests in the heart of New Delhi over anti-Dalit violence in his home district of Saharanpur.
The Bhim Army has since made it a point to address all caste-based atrocities by reaching out to victims with a team first and then raising the issue on social media. During this short period Azad has managed to create a separate space. He has made a significant penetration into the support base of BSP. A massive number of youths have rallied behind Azad. They are using the modern tech to flag their cause.
An analysis of Mayawati’s assertion that BSP would go alone also underlines her lack of confidence in her own leadership. She is not confident of make the Dalits rally behind her. In the recently held Lok Sabha and one assembly election in UP, the BSP could muster 12 per cent of votes. Her narrow look at the advantage of winning election has made her blind to the social realities. How could she aspire that Jats would automatically forge alliance with the Jatavs, or vice versa. For this she would have to prepare the ground and take the Jatavs in confidence.
Her supporters claim that as far as the vote base of the BSP is concerned, it has not eroded. But sometimes there are other sections such as OBCs, minorities and upper castes who get misled due to poll promises. Does it believe that the OBC or other minorities are so naïve to ignore their caste and class interest and fall in the trap of their oppressors? During the last five years, BSP experimented with alliance politics by joining hands with other parties. But it did not succeed. The primary reason is the warring classes cannot share the same political philosophy and line. The electoral policy of Mayawati is fundamentally flawed. How could she aspire to achieve her social and economic goals by winning elections on the strength of brotherhood of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Muslims.
In UP clashes between either the Yadavs and Dalits or between the Thakurs (Rajputs) and the Dalits are common. In such a situation, BSP’s alliances with either the SP or the BJP can never be quite successful, because the core voters of BSP would never be socially accepted by the core voters of other parties. Mayawati instead of putting the blame on SP and Congress should have analysed this in right prospective.
She aspires that Muslims should vote her, she at the same time blames them for BSP’s dismal performance in the 2022 assembly elections. And this isn’t the first time she’s doing it either. The BSP has won just 1 seat out of 403 seats in UP, their worst-ever performance in the state. Her assumption that Muslims would vote for her is based on desolate presumptions. She has been trying to borrow the phrase of Asaduddin Owaisi, who has been harping on bringing together Dalit and Muslims. This has no practical aspect.
How could Mayawati ignore the fact that since the days of Mulayam Singh, the Yadavs and Muslims have been working together? After the defeat she said; “To defeat the BJP, Muslims shifted their votes from the tried and tested BSP to the SP. This wrong decision of theirs cost us heavily because the fear spread among BSP supporters, the upper-caste Hindus and OBCs that if the SP comes to power, there will be jungle raj once again. So they went to the BJP…This is a harsh lesson for us…that we trusted them…We will keep this experience in mind and change accordingly.”
BSP has been having an ambivalence stand on Muslim sensibility. The election results and voting patterns point to a clear trend that Muslims across the state consolidated behind the SP as they saw the Samajwadi Party as the strongest challenger to Yogi. No doubt by refusing to go to the polls in alliance with opposition parties, Mayawati would divide the opposition support base and eventually it would help the BJP to win large number of seats in UP. This would simply strengthen the belief of the people that Mayawati has been working to protect and preserve the interest of BJP in lieu of getting reprieve from agency’s raids. (IPA Service)