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'Mayawati is no more the undisputed leader of Dalits'

Last updated on: June 28, 2019 10:28 IST

'The 16th and 17th Lok Sabha and the 2017 assembly election show that Dalits and OBCs are moving towards the BJP.'

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati

Former foes turned friends -- the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party -- have turned foes once again.

Mayawati has broken the Grand Alliance between the two parties, blaming SP President Akhilesh Yadav for the alliance's poor performance in the Lok Sabha election.

The two parties, that once governed India's most electorally important state, are now vying for the number 2 position in Uttar Pradesh.

Mayawati, who has been out of power in UP for 7 years, would like to consolidate her position in the state after winning 10 seats in Parliament, compared to the SP's 5.

With by-elections to 11 assembly seats in UP coming up, all the parties that constituted the Mahagatbandhan will battle the Bharatiya Janata Party on their own. 

"It is a survival game in competitive politics," Dr Manzoor Ali, assistant professor at the Lucknow-based Giri Institute of Development Studies, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

 

Why do you think the BSP terminated its alliance with the SP?

It was an experiment by two political parties with the same goal -- to defeat the BJP. It didn't work. Their vote share has gone down, which was not expected.

Secondly, it could be that the BSP wanted to play a major role in the politics at the Centre while the SP was looking for support from the BSP at the state level.

However, with no major success, the BSP wants to remain a major player in the state and not giving space to the SP.

It is a survival game in competitive politics.

What does it mean for the politics of UP? What in your view is the number 2 party in UP today -- the BSP or SP?

It is hard to predict things in the ever changing political scenario of the state. But, taking cue from the factors in front of us, it is certain that the BJP will be dominating the scene with all over support from various social groups for a longer time. The BJP has placed itself really well.

However, Prime Minister Modi has more popularity than UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and if politics against the local BJP leadership emerges as it happened in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, then the SP and BSP can fill those gaps.

Currently, based on vote share, the BSP is second and SP third. But, if the above case arises, then the SP can be in a better position with the Yadav and Muslim combination, rather than the BSP.

There are other factors as well which put the SP in an advantageous position, unless BJP voters decide to support the BSP against the SP's social grouping. It's all hypothetical.

How will it impact the coming by-election to 11 assembly seats?

Organisationally, the BJP is very strong on all seats. Furthermore, a divided Opposition stands no chance whatsoever.

We can expect a little resistance in Pratapgarh Sadar and Manikpur. A better result would be expected in Jajalalpur. A majority of the seats are going to the BJP.

After increasing her tally from 0 to 10, do you think Mayawati thought it would be risky to continue with the SP (which did not improve its tally from 2014)?

Although Mayawati increased her seats, it would not have been possible without SP support.

On the other hand, the SP retains 5 seats, three of those were won by Muslims.

Mayawati wants to use her current advantage to further wean away SP supporters to retain her position.

Both of them are vying for Muslim support, similar to the situation in the early 1990s. A majority of Muslims will stick with the SP, even though they vote in favour of the BSP wherever it is necessary.

But that is their problem. Instead of expanding their base among Hindus OBCs and Dalits, they want to continue with 'sacrificial' Muslim voters.

It was a coalition of two very diverse and contradictory parties -- was it doomed for failure from the start?

I don't agree with the proposition that they are two distinct and contradictory parties. Ideologically, they have one common agenda -- to achieve social justice for 85 percent or the Bahujan.

However, another commonality between them is their attitude towards that goal. Hence, they have always been in search of social grouping for electoral gain. That explains their failure.

BSP supremo Mayawati and Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav at a joint press conference in Lucknow. Photograph: Nand Kumar/PTI Photo

IMAGE: BSP supremo Mayawati and Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav at a joint press conference in Lucknow. Photograph: Nand Kumar/PTI Photo

Why did the Mahagathbandhan fail in UP in 2019?

The grand alliance impact area was limited to the mobilisation of a few castes such as Yadavs and Jatavs. They have done nothing to mobilise other Hindu OBCs and Dalits.

Their political action was missing since 2014. Without any political action, they cannot ensure support even among these two castes.

In 2019, the Yadav and Jatav vote share for the grand alliance has gone down.

The only community or group which stands solidly behind the grand alliance was Muslims.

So, no political action, away from the ideological battle, and relying mainly on few castes can be combined to explain their defeat.

Mayawati has said that Akhilesh Yadav did not call her after the election results. She has also blamed the SP for the loss in UP. Was this break-up also because it was a clash of two very different personalities?

These are lame excuses and showcased her hollow political ego. In fact, during the election Akhilesh has shown enough courtesy toward Mayawati.

Akhilesh's SP has lost from this alliance. Mayawati cannot blame Akhilesh's SP for loss in UP.

Even Jatav support for the Mahagathbandhan has gone down. Non-Jatav Dalits have voted for the BJP in majority.

Who is responsible for that? I have pointed out enough reason from both sides to be blamed for the loss.

Of course, they are two different personalities.

The SP has said that Mayawati was concerned because Dalits were abandoning her for Akhilesh. Is Mayawati losing her hold over Dalits? Are Dalits moving to the BJP or SP?

That is correct if we look at the 2012 assembly election. The BSP has never performed well in reserved constituencies. It is either the SP or BJP that is advantageous.

Yes, Mayawati is no more the undisputed leader of Dalits in UP.

It is also true for Akhilesh because the SP no more can claim the overall leadership of OBCs.

The 16th and 17th Lok Sabha and the 2017 assembly election show that Dalits and OBCs are moving towards the BJP, rather than SP.

The combined vote share of the BSP-SP has also fallen since the 2014 election. How difficult will it be for the BSP to take on Yogi Adityanath and the BJP on its own in the next UP assembly election?

It is impossible right now. With a little above 19.3 percent vote share in 2019, the BSP is no match to BJP.

In fact, the combined vote share of the BSP-SP-RLD-Congress is no match for the BJP. There is high possibility of vote division. But, politics is uncertain. It can throw many surprises.

A regional election depends on factors other than national ones.

Mayawati has not been in power for 7 years. She has now appointed her nephew and brother to key posts. What is the future of the BSP, especially at a time when voters rejected caste identity in favour of a Hindu identity and do not take kindly to dynastic politics?

It is a bad decision, but may sustain the BSP to some extent.

Mayawati knew that after her departure there will be dissent and many will vie to control the party. It can lead to division.

With her relatives on the scene, a bigger chunk of the BSP stays with them. A small portion of Jatavs and majority Dalits are ready for the BJP.

The Congress is not in a position to grab that opportunity. That would be a turbulent phase for the BSP. How that will unfold one cannot be sure.

How do you think the SP under Akhilesh will navigate its future after such a poor performance?

The current loss has jolted him.

In the 2019 election, he tried to combine his developmental image with a slight bent toward social justice. He may continue with the development image in the state, as many people remember his work.

This may also give him an advantage over Mayawati as she is known for law and order, which is a concern of the lower section of voters.

But, regaining power again is not easy for him as well.

He should work with a longer time frame by combining a social justice agenda with development in the true ideological sense.

Any dilly-dally approach would prove an electoral farce for the SP.

ARCHANA MASIH / Rediff.com
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