Behenji Turned Bae: Will Mayawati Play Kingmaker in the 2019 General Elections?

101Reporters Desk | Jan 15, 2019 | 6 min read

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Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati bury hatchet to shield against CBI heat

Raj Silvano

Lucknow: What transpired in the aftermath of Mayawati’s pulling back from alliance with Samajwadi Party (SP) government on June 2, 1995 is often referred to as the Black Day of Uttar Pradesh politics. Enraged over losing majority and not being able to poach MLAs, SP MLAs and workers broke into the state guest house and abducted BSP MLAs to force them to join the rebel BSP legislators’ group, before attacking Mayawati who had locked herself in her room. The story goes that it was Bharatiya Janata Party’s Brahmdutt Dwivedi who escorted Mayawati to safety risking his life by challenging the SP goons, and it was for this reason that she never fielded her candidate against him in Farrukhabad; instead, she campaigned for him. Mayawati, it is reported, wailed uncontrollably when Dwivedi was killed in revenge.  

The resulting rivalry took 23 years and a generational shift within SP before the two parties joined hands again for the bypoll to Gorakhpur and Phulpur Assembly seats.

With little political ground left beneath their feet and the proverbial Damocles’ sword hanging over their heads in the form of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probes into various corruption scandals, BSP supremo Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav have finally gotten together to scratch each other’s back in their attempt to checkmate the BJP in the forthcoming general elections. Their coming together has also drifted, if not sunk, the ‘mahagathbandhan’ boat further into troubled waters. The alliance has deliberately cold-shouldered Congress and displayed a soft corner for Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

At the most the SP-BSP tie-up can be viewed as a marriage of convenience, but seat sharing is one thing and winning their respective shares is another. In the recent Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram, lesser known candidates and Independents registered impressive victories against candidates from BJP and Congress. Going by the trend, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some new kids on the block throw up some interesting results in 2019 parliamentary elections, especially in Uttar Pradesh.

UP sends 80 Lok Sabha members. According to the formula jointly worked out by both parties, BSP will field its candidates for 38 Lok Sabha constituencies, while three seats of Baghpat, Kairana and Mathura would be spared for Ajit Singh’s RLD. Out of the remaining 39, Samajwadi Party would contest 37, while Raebareli and Amethi won’t be touched by both parties. However, out of their respective quotas, both parties would exercise their discretion to share a few seats with either Independents or smaller parties which enjoy popular public support.

Mayawati’s vote bank, which has been gradually shrinking over the past 10 years, has forced her to expand her social engineering formula to entice Muslims and to reduce reliance on Brahmin vote bank. The need to experiment Dalit-Muslim combination is a result of BJP’s all-out efforts to woo Dalits and Backward castes. Hence, Mayawati is facing the uphill task of retaining whatever remains of the Dalit vote bank while struggling to cut into Congress and SP’s Muslim voter base. However, where Muslims are concerned Akhilesh Yadav is still their best bet, which means it would be difficult for Mayawati to wean away even a fraction of Muslim voters. And if she tries to bypass or sidestep Akhilesh, the honeymoon will come to an abrupt end.

According to former IPS officer-turned-social activist, S R Darapuri, Mayawati has failed her Dalit followers. The last Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, which brought BJP to power in the state, showed that Dalit politics had failed miserably, he says, while pointing out that BSP’s tally from a high of 403 shrunk to 19.

Darapuri feels that Mayawati’s caste politics has been counter-productive as it boosted Hindutva forces and, in turn, benefitted BJP.

It’s too early to hazard any guesses over how the alliance would benefit Samajwadi Party, but Mayawati has been notorious for breaching the trust of allies in the past. When it comes to protecting her political interests, she unscrupulously trashes commitment made to allies. She has been in and out of political arrangements with both BJP and Samajwadi Party. Mayawati’s party was part of BJP-led governments on two occasions, albeit the alliances didn’t last long due to differences over various issues.

BSP’s rise in northern India was the result of the downfall of Republican Party of India (RPI). It won’t be wrong to say that Kanshiram built BSP over the ruins of RPI. In 1993, BSP got a shot in the arm by aligning with Samajwadi Party and for the first time the Dalit-Muslim combo made its mark in national politics.

Political arrangements might have benefited Mayawati personally, but did a lot of damage to Dalit interests. Her anti-Brahmanical stance got diluted as she tasted the fruits of being in power, so much so that she forgot about Dalit empowerment and discrimination.

There have been speculations both in media and political cricles that Mayawati is harbouring the ambition of becoming the first Dalit woman prime minister. But then, even Mulayam is being touted by his son Akhilesh and Rahul Gandhi is struggling very hard to achieve what is still a far-fetched goal. What to talk about firebrand and eccentric Trinamool Congress leader and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. And that is where the political crossroads are strewn with scores of probabilities and possibilities.

When asked to comment on whether SP-BSP alliance would work, Sunita Aron, senior resident editor of Hindustan Times, Lucknow, sounded confident that it would work. “In UP, besides issues, caste combinations matter a lot. Elections in UP are caste-driven. So your caste calculus has to be right. In 2014, when Narendra Modi swept to power, BJP, too, had tried to work out various caste combinations, which did work,” she says.

On prime ministerial ambitions being harboured by Mayawati, Rahul Gandhi and others, Aron says, “I think when parties project their leaders as prime ministerial candidate, they are simply doing that to galvanise their respective party cadres. After Deve Gowda became a reality, others too began harbouring such ambitions. What’s wrong with that?”  

Leaving aside prime ministerial stuff, it would be better to keep fingers crossed and wait for the scene to unfold because Samajwadi Party veteran and Akhilesh’s father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, is not the kind to take things lying down for long. As of now, he is playing the game with cards close to his chest. He has neither revealed his intention of endorsing the script written by Akhilesh, nor has he come out openly in favour of his brother Shivpal Singh Yadav. The equation between Mayawati and Akhilesh could change overnight if Mulayam throws a spanner. Both Mulayam and Mayawati have still not forgotten the murderous attack on the latter by Samajwadi Party workers, way back in 1995.

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