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Mainstream, Vol XLV No 22

Behind Mayawati’s Spectacular Success


Saturday 19 May 2007, by SC


The UP Assembly elections have indeed produced amazing results that have surprised most observers barring of course the real victor, Mayawati. However, it needs to be pointed out that one Dalit political leader of a Left party had forecast such a resounding, comprehensive and phenomenal victory for Mayawati’s BSP based on his interactions with officials capable of feeling the pulse of the people at large unlike the mediapersons and pollsters whose predictions and ‘surveys’ (of not only a ‘hung Assembly’ but also of the BJP’s revival) have gone completely awry. It must also be recalled that when Kanshi Ram founded the BSP in the mid-eighties he received generous support and unstinted assistance from Dalit administrators in different layers of the bureaucracy eagerly waiting for such an organisation that emerged out of the erstwhile DS-4.

Of course, the BSP of today is not the same as the BSP of yester-years, a point conceded by no less a person than Mayawati herself when she speaks of the bahujan samaj’s graduation into the sarvajan samaj. Her meticulous and painstaking effort at effecting socialengineering—by drawing the upper castes as also lower OBCs to the BSP—has definitely paid rich dividends as reflected in her astounding success—a haul of 208 seats (a gain of 111 seats from what she won in 2002) in a 403-strong Assembly—in the process routing Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (97 seats: a loss of 50 seats), decimating the BJP (50 seats: a loss of 47 seats) and trouncing the Congress (21 seats; short of four seats from its strength after the 2002 polls). The emergence of her rainbow alliance is undoubtedly a matter of historic importance in the Indian political setting. And it is this phenomenon which has literally ravaged the calculations of the BJP—the latter having lost the very base on which it had built the party in the State.

Mayawati clearly understood the mood of the electorate: the people wanted a genuine change—an end to Mulayam’s misrule. That is why they voted for the most uncompromising opponent of Mulayam, the BSP of Mayawati, knowing full well that she or her party would under no circumstance strike any post-poll deal with the Samajwadi Party. The Congress too fell in that category, given the tone and tenor of the Sonia-Rajiv campaign; yet the voter knew the dismal state of the Congress organisation, which is why she/he was convinced that voting for the Congress was pointless—it won’t be able to form a government and by supporting it there was every possibility of spoling the BSP’s chances. As for the BJP, the perceptive sections of the electorate did not fail to grasp the party’s proclivity to strike a deal with the SP whenever the occasion arises—after all, didn’t Mulayam come to the aid of the BJP (following the ‘secret’ Mulayam-Advani-George Fernandes meeting) by firmly opposing and thereby scuttling Sonia Gandhi’s moves to form a government after the collapse of the Vajpayee Ministry in 1999? Thus it was untrustworthy in their perception. That was precisely why the upper castes joined the Dalits in voting for Mayawati thereby denuding the BJP of its strength and vitality. The Muslims too voted for Mayawati as the final tally testified. At the same time the SP, though routed, was not as humiliated as the BJP, because the Yadav votes along with those of a fairly large number of Muslims did go to it; or else it could not have been able to secure as many as 97 seats.

Those sections in the Left which went along with Mulayam in the name of secularism have doubtless suffered. Now they are expressing jubilation at the fall of the BJP. The BJP’s collapse was not due to the public opposition to its communal ideology for that was not an issue in these elections; its collapse was because of its underhand association with Mulayam, something Mayawati astutely exploited to her advantage.

The Jan Morcha, V.P. Singh and CPI had exhorted the Congress to join hands with them as well as the RLD of Ajit Singh in the interest of secular democratic unity. But the Congress wanted to go alone. Without any organisation it has been forced to bite the dust despite all the exertions of young Rajiv. However, it still thinks it will be able to regain its lost glory in the State by remaining aloof and “building its organisation”. This is utterly fallacious. Only by joining hands with like-minded forces would it be able to redeem itself and to do so it would have to return to the Gandhi-Nehru paradigm of welfare state it has voluntarily chosen to abandon in the wake of globalisation.

As for the BSP and BJP a perceptive political analyst has aptly observed the following.

Mayawati’s victory in UP is the beginning of the end for the politics that the BJP has practised over the last two decades. In turn, Mayawati has found a way of factoring in the non-sectarian aspirations of the Hindus, while uniting various caste groups and religious communities under a benign Dalit Bahujan rubric. In that sense, the triumph of the BSP is also part of the complex that B.R. Ambedkar delineated as part of the meaning of democracy. He argued that as long as the “governing class retains its power to govern, it is wrong to believe that democracy and self-government have become realities...
self-government and democracy become real not when a Constitution based on adult suffrage comes into existence but when the governing class loses its power to capture the power to govern”. Mayawati’sgloss on Ambedkar is the natural inversion that this democratic process has brought about, almost quietly and unobtrusively. In a sociological sense, it would be right to speak of it in terms of an inverted pyramid, but politically the governed of yesterday have captured power without incurring the resentment of those who governed for all these years.

It would take enormous political acumen, statesmanship and tact on the part of Mayawati to make this work. But there is little doubt that this marks a paradigm shift in the nature of Indian politics as a whole. The significance of this for the BJP can hardly be underesti mated. The RSS and the BJP are deeply entrenched in a version of Hinduism and Hindutva that feeds on the smugness of manuvaad and a faux religiosity. Their fate seems beyond hope and redemption.

(Jyotirmaya Sharma in Hindustan Times)

One cannot possibly be blind to this reality in the current scenario.
Undoubtedly UP today under Dalit leadership presents a new spectacle. The fact that the upper castes have unhesitatingly accepted this leadership is all the more noteworthy. This has enormous potentiality and can offer a new path of socio-political-economic advance for the country as a whole provided Mayawati is able to strike a departure from past practice by displaying mature statesmanship. This should not be a tall order for the present leader of the sarvajan samaj in the changed political landscape of UP and beyond.

May 17 S.C.

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