Mayawati emerges kingmaker

You can’t be Queen or King of Indian politics if you don’t get the major chunk of UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats, as PM Modi did in 2014. Mayawati can snatch that crown in 2019 and decide who’ll wear it next

Photo by Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Zafar Agha and Lesley Esteves

After her blank slate in 2014 and low tally in 2017, the media had smugly written her off. Conspiracy theorists claimed that BJP Chief Amit Shah is dictating terms to her as he has her ‘’bank account details’’ with him. But on March 14, when Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats went from the BJP kitty to Samajwadi Party thanks to her game-changing support, Mayawati once again took centre stage in India’s most electorally important state, Uttar Pradesh. The long and short of it is that Mayawati has bounced back not just in UP politics but has emerged as an important political player in national politics too.

The BSP supremo has, in fact, emerged as potential king-maker in 2019. Whether they love or loath her, no one can cannot afford to ignore her in 2019. The BJP would like to restrict her, while the Opposition are lining up to forge electoral tie-ups with her Bahujan Samaj Party in the state that sends 80 seats to the Lok Sabha. After all, Mayawati commands firm grip over the 20% Dalit vote bank of Uttar Pradesh and no one can match her ability to transfer her votes to her allies. She is the one leader who with just a signal to her constituency to vote for a certain candidate, can swing it in his or her favour.

It was not for the nothing that Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav went personally to pay his respects to ‘buaji’ for her support to Samajwadi candidates in Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls. Akhilesh knows well those two magical victories would not have been possible without Mayawati transferring her votes to the SP candidates.

NH Graphic
NH Graphic
UP Lok Sabha results of 2014 (left); Combined votes of the NDA parties (BJP, Apna Dal, SBSP) and the combined votes of BSP, SP and Congress garnered in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections of 2017, projected onto the UP Lok Sabha electoral map. BSP plus SP/Congress outnumbered BJP in a whopping 52 seats, reducing BJP to 28 seats

So, anyone trying to capture the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh needs to have some sort of understanding with Mayawati. And, you cannot be the King of Indian politics if you do not get the major chunk of UP Lok Sabha seats. The BJP won 71 in 2014 and Modi was crowned king. Mayawati could trip Modi in 2019, snatching the crown from his head and deciding who would wear it next.

But there is one political option she will not exercise. Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, who traditionally supported Mayawati, voted in big numbers for Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, only to find his Hindutva brigade going berserk against them. From Meerut to Saharanpur, Gorakhpur to Banda, dozens of cases of violence against Dalits at the hands of upper castes continue to be reported. The Dalits turned against the BJP and Chandrashekhar of the Bhim Army emerged as a new Dalit icon. Mayawati cannot go against her own constituency. She will not have any truck with the BJP in 2019.

Hence, the secularists’ chances are bright that Mayawati will ally with them. If Maya, Akhilesh and Rahul come together in Uttar Pradesh, it will change UP’s electoral map.

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