Isolation of the Dalit diva: Faced with an existential crisis, Mayawati looks for course correction

Can BSP chief Mayawati revive her fortune? Some clues will be available in the 12 assembly by elections due in the state

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Mohit Dubey

Self-important, temperamental and difficult to please. That is how a ‘diva’ is defined. And Dalit Diva Mayawati, who has been chief minister of the most populous and politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh as many as four times, has been unpredictable as well.

That she is battling an existential crisis is evident. That a large segment of her ‘captive and loyal vote bank’ has deserted her is also now obvious. And so the 63-year-old leader who till a few months was harbouring national ambitions of "Me as PM or none as PM without Me" finds herself at a political crossroads.

She has said "goodbye for all times" to the Samajwadi Party and its chief Akhilesh Yadav even as she tries to find her old footing on the strength of the 10 lawmakers her party has in the Lok Sabha.

The number of MPs in the Lok Sabha is far better from 2014 when she drew a blank. But her ambition of being the queen bee at the national level or at least the king maker has taken a blow from which it will be tough to recover.

In the wake of the results of the general election, she did not wait for a detailed analysis of what went wrong and which segment of voters let her down. She hastily broke off the electoral nuptial with Akhilesh Yadav. While at first, she said this was a temporary parting of ways, with her eyes on the 11 assembly by polls that UP would witness soon, she called it a "divorce forever" in less than a fortnight.

She accused Akhilesh Yadav of losing hold over his own Yadav vote bank and ridiculed him for failing to get even members of his family elected. Yadav's wife Dimple Yadav lost to BJP in Kannauj, cousins Akshay Yadav from Firozabad and Dharmendra Yadav from Badayun were personal losses for the Yadav clan.

But where does Mayawati herself stand now in Uttar Pradesh? Abdul Nasir, a founder member of the Lucknow-based Ambedkar Mahasabha says Mayawati aka 'Behenji' was trying to spin her caste formulations and trying to wed the Dalit and Muslim votes. But Nasir, who has worked with both Kanshiram and Mayawati says Muslims "no longer trust her" as her dalliance with the BJP on three occasions has "made her a subject of suspicion".

Many believe this has been her own doing as she lost the plot in the desperation to remain relevant (she has been out of power since 2012 in UP and since 2014 an also-ran in national politics) and in the blind pursuit of becoming the prime minister. An old-time journalist who covered her for a national English daily told The National Herald that it was time that Mayawati engaged in "serious introspection and constructive destruction".

Time has come, he pointed out, for the four-time UP chief minister to reboot her brand of politics and engage with people who brought her the glory she revelled in. She has to shed the tag of being 'Daulat ki Beti' and come back into the 'Dalit ki Beti' avatar, says a political analyst who points out that increasingly she comes across as a recluse, as a dictatorial, distant and arrogant leader even to her own party leader and cadre.

A BSP lawmaker in the UP Assembly (she just has 19 in a 403 member House) recalls the routine humiliation of depositing mobile phones and stand with head bowed in front of her during meetings. Her lust for money has been much talked about.

The last blow to her waning aura seems to be the recent announcement of making her controversial brother Anand BSP vice-president and her nephew Akash Anand a senior party functionary.

"She has always fascinated her followers and cadres because of her straight forward nature and the fact that she opposed elitism and dynastic politics....but she has turned it upside down," admits a party office bearer on condition of anonymity.

Akash was often seen by her side during the election campaign and it is widely speculated that she will anoint him her successor but the political experiment would succeed in arresting her ebb or not is a wide open guess! Observers also say that her refusal to change with the times is another impediment. The only change is that she has now taken to the micro blogging site Twitter, say former fans.

Her imperious ‘My way or the highway’ conduct has also cost her dearly, with many of her close aides deserting her - RK Chowdhary, Naseemuddin Siddiqui, PL Punia, Babu Singh Kushwaha, Swamy Prasad Maurya, Brajesh Pathak...the list seemingly is long and endless.

Many of them wonder what Kanshiram, her mentor who was a defence scientist in Pune before his political leap, would have made of her journey. For now, she symbolises a faltering political experiment in dire need of course correction.

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Published: 06 Jul 2019, 7:45 PM