Bharat Bandh success gives Mayawati a shot in the arm 

The response from Dalit youths to the call for Bharat Bandh on April 2, close on the heels of the electoral success of the SP-BSP combine in the UP bypolls, has enthused Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party

Photo by Ajay Aggarwal/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Ajay Aggarwal/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Biswajeet Banerjee

There has been a change in the demeanour of BSP chief Mayawati after the victory of opposition parties in UP by-elections and the successful April 2 Bharat Bandh organised by Dalit youths against alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act. These have given her party a fresh lease of life as she sees an opportunity to regain the lost political ground in Uttar Pradesh where her party had received electoral jolt in 2014 and 2017.

She was at her stinging best when she issued warning to officials. “When we will come to power, all the cases against Dalits will be withdrawn,” she said in a statement on Sunday, cleverly using ‘Hum’ instead of ‘BSP’. It spread a message among the political spectrum that she is ready to honour the ‘alliance dharma’ .

Many political leaders consider Mayawati as a fickle-minded leader who can change decisions within seconds. History says that BSP’s alliance has not worked with any political outfit for a long period. The founder of BSP, Kanshi Ram, had once told this reporter that BSP wanted quick elections as it invigorated party workers and therefore it did not mind ditching alliance partners.

Much water has flown down the Gomati since Kanshi Ram said those words. In modern Indian politics where religious polarisation is used to the hilt to gain political mileage, regional parties have found themselves blown away by the Hindutva storm. BSP has been no exception. The party was decimated in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections where it failed to win even one seat though it came second in 28 seats. And in the 2017 Assembly election, it won just 19 seats.

The decision of Mayawati to support Samajwadi Party in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur by-elections was no less than a masterstroke which was destined to change the political discourse of India’s most populous state. When her party lost the Rajya Sabha election despite SP and Congress supporting her, she was suave in her reaction. She made it clear that one or two electoral defeats will not affect the alliance

With her back to the wall, Mayawati is fighting for her party’s survival. When top leaders like Swami Prasad Maurya, Nasimuddin Siddiqui, Thakur Jaiveer Singh and Indrajeet Saroj left BSP and joined different parties, political pundits had written requiems for the party. The writing on the horizon was that it was the end of BSP because Dalits had deserted Mayawati and voted for the BJP in the 2017 and 2014 elections.

In this scenario, the decision of Mayawati to support Samajwadi Party in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur by-elections was no less than a masterstroke which was destined to change the political discourse of India’s most populous state. When her party lost the Rajya Sabha election despite SP and Congress supporting her, she was suave in her reaction. She made it clear that one or two electoral defeats will not affect the alliance.

The massive Dalit support for the recent Bharat Bandh has given her party new energy. In her statements, she now touts about dilution of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and how the success of the agitation has terrified the BJP because of which the governments of BJP-ruled states are now resorting to “torturing” Dalits.

“Because of the widespread success of the agitation and anger within the Dalit and tribal population, the BJP’s Central and state governments are now terrified and have started to feel the power sliding from their hands…,” she further said, adding that the atrocities committed during the Emergency seemed lesser in comparison to these arrests.

This statement of Mayawati hits the BJP the most because she compares these days to the Emergency and says that the present days are more traumatising as compared to those back in 1975. The BJP retaliates by reminding her of the Guest House incident of 1995.

This goes without saying that relation between the SP and the BSP had touched its rock bottom after June 2, 1995 when SP supporters assaulted BSP legislators and even tried to storm into Mayawati’s room in the UP government’s State Guest House. Mayawati always believed that SP’s attack on the guest house was actually an attempt on her life.

After Samajwadi Party was routed in the 2017 Assembly elections, Akhilesh Yadav, who was also facing a feud within the family, has shown his inclination to join hands with the BSP. Even RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav had said that if the BSP and the SP join hands, the alliance can wipe out BJP. When it came to political survival, Mayawati chose to let bygones be bygones and go for the alliance.

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