By Sagarneel Sinha
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and BSP supremo Mayawati, who herself is a strong aspirant for the post of prime minister, has lately been critical of the Congress party. The grand old party has already been left out of the Grand Alliance of Uttar Pradesh comprising BSP, Samajwadi Party and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. Although, both BSP and SP left the two traditional boroughs of the Gandhi family — Amethi and Raebareli — to the Congress party. Mayawati has earlier cited Congress party’s inability to transfer its votes to the allies as the reason for the party’s not being included in the Grand Alliance.
However, nowadays Mayawati is attacking the Congress more than the BJP, the main enemy. Recently, Congress party decided not to put any candidates in the seven seats including the seats from where SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, RLD’s Ajit Singh and Jayant Singh will contest as a return gesture to the alliance for not fielding candidates against Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Surprisingly, Mayawati snubbed the Congress’ decision by even asking the party to contest all the seats as the Grand Alliance minus the Congress is enough to defeat the BJP. Mayawati has already clarified that her party will not ally with the Congress in any state.
Why is Mayawati so angry with the Congress? The main reason seems to be the Congress’ strategy to rebuild the frailing order of the party in the state by appointing Rahul Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia, who missed the chair of Madhya Pradesh chief minister to Kamal Nath, as incharge of East UP and West UP respectively as the party decided to break the state into two zones. Anyway it is Priyanka Gandhi, who resembles her grandmother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who has been successful in drawing headlines in the state since her official induction in the month of January. And this has definitely not gone well with Mayawati.
BSP’s performance has been low since the 2012 UP assembly polls when the party lost power to the SP to drawing blank in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and performing a disastrous show in the 2017 UP assembly polls by bagging a distant third position after BJP and SP. This is the main reason for Mayawati to ally with her once arch rival Samajwadi party for the Lok Sabha polls to check the BJP in the state as it sends the maximum number of MPs — 80 — to the Lok Sabha — crucial for formation of the government. Not only this, Mayawati has been successful to pacify Akhilesh Yadav, president of SP, to play herself as the senior in the Grand Alliance with BSP contesting 38 seats and SP contesting 37 seats. The rest 3 seats are allotted to RLD. Akhilesh Yadav himself has indicated indirectly his support for Mayawati as the next prime minister of the country.
However, with Priyanka Gandhi entering the political arena of Uttar Pradesh, BSP chief is unhappy with the Congress as there is a chance of division of anti-BJP votes — especially the very crucial 19 per cent Muslim votebank. Muslims traditionally have an inclination towards the Congress party. It is a Lok Sabha election. So, naturally a section of Muslims would vote for the Congress which is trying to rebuild itself under Priyanka Gandhi. Division of Muslim votes means offering the food with platter to the BJP, which generally doesn’t depend on Muslim votes to win an election.
Mayawati was however infuriated when Priyanka Gandhi recently met with Chandrashekhar Azad, a rising Dalit leader in the state who poses a challenge against BSP supremo as she herself champions as the pioneer of Dalits across the country. Congress’ rise in Uttar Pradesh is actually an ominous signal for the BSP. Dalits who account for 21 per cent of the state’s population earlier used to be the votebanks of the Congress during its heydays. It was only in the 90s, Dalits shifted away from the Congress towards the BSP movement steered by its founder Kanshi Ram, political mentor of Mayawati. With the help of Dalit votebank, BSP rose in India’s most politically significant state with Mayawati becoming the chief minister of the state for four times.
Although, the Dalits helped the BSP to rise in Uttar Pradesh, but the party failed to achieve any significant success in other states with a thick Dalit population — Uttarakhand (19 per cent), Punjab (32 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (25 per cent), Haryana (20 per cent), Delhi (17 per cent), Rajasthan (18 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (16 per cent) and Bihar (16 per cent). The reason is obviously the Congress except Bihar where the factions of socialist leaning Janata Dal attracted the Dalits. In UP, decline of the Congress is inversely proportional to the rise of BSP and in the states with thick Dalit population, Congress maintaining its strength prevented the rise of BSP.
Mayawati is well aware of the truth and it is said that her mentor Kanshi Ram even advised her never to ally with the Congress as it may result in Dalit moving back to the grand old party. Despite back to back electoral setbacks, if Mayawati led BSP is still relevant in the political scenario, it is mainly due to the support of the Dalit community. BSP polled 20 per cent and 22 per cent votes in the 2014 general and 2017 state elections respectively. Nevertheless, there have been signs of Mayawati losing grip on the Dalits with a section of non-Jatav Dalits moving towards the BJP in the 2014 and 2017 elections.
Jatav Dalits account for 14 per cent and non-Jatav Dalits represent 7 per cent of the state population. Jatavs are the dominant ones among the Dalit community and Mayawati herself belongs to the Jatav community which has been the strong base for the party. It is not that a majority of non-Jatavs have deserted BSP — only a section of them is unhappy due to Jatav dominance and have moved towards the BJP.
For Mayawati, this election presents — a do or die situation — if she has to stay relevant in politics. With murmurs of neither the BJP nor the Congress’ ability to gain the magical figure of 272, Mayawati is hopeful that her party will win a large portion of seats in UP with the help of SP. So, that she can emerge as the possible non-Congress and non-BJP candidate for the post of prime minister. However, Congress under Priyanka could shatter the long cherished hope of Mayawati. That’s why, she is trying to send signals to the anti-BJP votes — specially the Muslims — by snubbing the Congress to portray the grand old party as a negligible player in the state.
The Congress seems to be more interested to expand the party rather than to pacify the concerns of potential allies like Mayawati. Actually, Congress should be worried regarding Mayawati as she can join hands with BJP if the NDA fails to master the magic figure of 272 — even after getting potential allies like BJD, TRS and YSR Congress on board. Already, BSP has announced to contest in other states, where Congress is a significant player, in alliance with other regional parties which will only cut the votes of Congress. So, it would be better for the Congress not to antagonise Mayawati further as the “Maya” of the elephant, election symbol of BSP, carries the potentiality of diminishing Congress’ hopes to dethrone BJP from power. (IPA Service)