As someone who loathes dust, Mayawati never let it coat the towering statues of the Ambedkar Memorial Park in Lucknow. During her last stint as chief minister, two men were appointed to ensure that the sculptures remained spotless.
Mayawati, out of power, is not letting her political ambition gather dust either. Twenty-four years after she broke away from a ruling alliance with the Samajwadi Party, pulling down Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government in Uttar Pradesh on the way, Mayawati has tied up with his son Akhilesh Yadav for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. On Saturday, three days before her sixty-third birthday, as she announced a gathbandhan with her political foe-turnedfriend Akhilesh, she said, “Keeping in mind the need of the hour and the interest of the nation, both the parties have decided to put the past behind us.”
Maywati’s political moves:
1993: Ties up with rival Mulayam to keep BJP out of power in Lucknow.
1995: Breaks alliance with SP. Becomes the first Dalit CM of UP with BJP support — and again in 1997 and 2002.
1999: Commits to supporting PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in a no-confidence motion, but votes against him; in the end his government loses by one vote.
2007: Openly woos Brahmins, talks about sarvjan, BSP wins 206 of 403 assembly seats and Mayawati becomes chief minister .
2017: Woos Muslims, ties up with Mukhtar Ansari in UP assembly polls; BSP wins only 19 seats.
2017: Resigns from Rajya Sabha.
2018: Removes brother Anand as VP to silence nepotism charges.
2018: Ties up with SP for Lok Sabha by-polls.
2019: Ties up with SP for Lok Sabha polls.
The SP and the BSP will be fighting 38 seats each, leaving two each for the Congress and allies. The slogan, coined for the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bypolls, will be carried over to 2019: “Bua ka Desh, Bhateejey ka Pradesh.” Together, Mayawati and Akhilesh plan to weave a new political coalition of Dalits, Muslims and Yadavs against the BJP. In Uttar Pradesh, with 80 Lok Sabha seats, this gathbandhan might decide who comes to power in Delhi.
This is Mayawati’s latest political manoeuvre, one of the many astute gambits the BSP has made under her. This is a make-or-break moment, too. She is now pushed to the wall in both Uttar Pradesh and Delhi: while the party is reduced to 19 seats in the assembly, it has zero seats in the Lok Sabha, a steep fall from 21 in the 2009 elections. The elephant — BSP’s election symbol — has made many twists and turns over the years. Once again, like in the beginning, the BJP is its biggest enemy.
“Vote humara, raj tumhara, nahi chalega nahi chalega.” That was BSP’s defiant slogan in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s. The message was simple: upper castes could no longer rule with Dalit votes. After the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, riding the mandir wave, the BJP got the maximum seats in the 1993 assembly elections. But Mayawati and Mulayam joined hands — SP had got 109 seats and BSP 67 — to keep the saffron party out of power. The slogan of the season was: “Mile Mulayam Kanshi Ram, Hawa Mein Udgaye Jai Shri Ram.” She would turn the tables in 1995. She allied with the BJP, upending political and caste equations. On the midnight of June 2, SP workers besieged the state guest house in Lucknow where Mayawati, having broken off the alliance with Mulayam, was meeting with her party members. They hurled casteist slurs at her and threatened her. The very next day, 39-year-old Mayawati was sworn in as chief minister, with BJP’s support. It was the first time she would become CM. It was also the first time Uttar Pradesh would get a Dalit CM. A fresh slogan was coined to reflect the new equation: “Brahmin Shankh Bajayega, Haathi Badta Jayega.” The upper castes were reduced to accompanists in her victory march.
The move alienated some in her party. Says Raj Bahadur, BSP’s founding member, who left the BSP in 1995: “The BSP and the BJP were two ends of a river that could never meet. But her hunger for power made her stay with the BJP. She could go to any extent to be in power. She became CM thrice with BJP support. She changed the focus from bahujan to sarvjan. The BSP was no longer a party with a Dalit cause that worked against the oppression of upper caste. The oppressors were part of BSP.” However, even her detractors praise her for something: restoring law and order in Uttar Pradesh. Says Bahadur: “Her control over law and order was unparalleled. Also, she highlighted Dalit history by way of erecting statues and monuments of Dalit leaders.”
To mainstream Dalit iconography, she erected statues of BR Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule, Kanshi Ram, and herself, among others. Then she decided to unveil the bust of Tamil social reformer EV Ramsamy aka Periyar – an acerbic critic of Ram – in the heart of Lucknow. The Sangh Parivar slammed the glorification of Periyar. “It was as if she was always testing the patience of the BJP. Eventually it became inevitable for the BJP to break the ties with Mayawati,” recalls veteran journalist Akhilesh Vajpayee.
From being a votary of bahujan to diversifying to sarvjan and now again stressing on bahujan, Mayawati has come a full circle. At different times she has found party leaders and allies in Muslims (Naseemuddin Siddiqui), Brahmins (Ramveer Upadhyay, Harishankar Tiwari and Satish Mishra), non-Yadav OBCs (Baburam Kushwaha, Swami Prasad Maurya, Lalji Verma) and the Yadavs (earlier Mulayam and now Akhilesh). At different times, they discarded each other as well. “She will not take a moment to snub them for her own benefit,” says a BSP old-timer, who adds that niceties are not her norm. “There is no such thing as thanks in her lexicon.”
She is careful about her image. If she expelled party veteran Siddiqui after the abysmal defeat in the 2017 assembly election, she was also quick to remove her brother Anand Kumar as party vice-president to silence charges of nepotism. While she remains aloof from the media, she meticulously writes her speeches “in big letters, four-five lines covering a page, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” says a long-time associate. An assistant’s job is to collect the handwritten notes that she has strewn around and type them out. “A perfectionist, Mayawati will take two hours to script a one-page speech. It has to be to the point and 100% error-free.” The BSP leader has a taste for “sada bhojan” and “expensive shoes and bags”, says the associate. She also ensures that “employees’ salary and bills are paid on time” and “will not leave any rally ground till all dues are cleared.” Mayawati, for all her finickiness about dust, now would really like to see the BJP bite it.
Source: Economic Times