India's Political Quake- Mayawati

By Ravikiran Shinde

20 May, 2007

The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don't define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them. -Denis Watley

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati is the winner. After handsomely winning the assembly elections in the biggest state in India, she has declared that she is on her way to capture "Delhi" and that plans to give UP the best government and Sarvasamaj (all sections of the society) the power to share with her.

The record breaking victory has caught the imagination of not only the entire Indian media but also the Western Media. The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC, Reuters all wrote about the miracle that a low caste lady did in Uttar Pradesh by winning a majority on its own.

This was not just all anti-incumbency votes since the incumbent Samajwadi Party's vote share has not gone down. The BSP actually fetched votes from the traditional BJP and Congress voters as a result of a dexterous social weaving- an amalgamation of Dalits and upper castes, the two social structures poles apart of the social hierarchy and blending it with Muslims and the backward castes for a winning formula. This strategy would have made Mayawati's shrewd mentor Kanshiram proud of his right choice of heir.

And Now, Mayawati is giving enough indications that the strategy does not just end with victory in UP. In her first appearance after the results were out, she accompanied with her S.C Mishra, a Brahmin and Nassimuddin Siddique, a Muslim. The message is clear. The predominant Dalit-Upper castes-Muslim combination that she crafted in the last 3 years was not just meant for the assembly elections to capture power.

Dedicating the victory to the great social reformers like Mahatma Phule, Rajarshee Shahu Maharaj, Narayana Guru, Dr Ambedkar and the party's founder Kanshi Ram, she also acknowledged the contributions made by the BSP office bearers and workers of all the sections of the society under her leadership as she read out from her prepared speech. The great orator that Kanshi Ram handpicked for her fierce, shrill oratory is no more a spontaneous speaker- especially in front of the media men. Many people did not realize when this covert transformation happened along with her new hair cut. The party continued to grow under her leadership even as an ill Kanshiram faded away from active politics. In 2002, the BSP won 98 seats and lost many seats by a margin of mere 2000 votes. The party's vote base was increasing but was looking stagnant at its saturation limit 25% that comprised of low castes and Muslims.

This time, as it is clear now, Upper castes too voted for the Elephant but it is equally important to note the overwhelming support BSP got from Muslims, non-yadav OBCs and the MBCs. Prof. Yogendra Yadav of Center for the Study of Developing Societies commented that BSP's new
social engineering was not just about getting upper castes votes but also the lower OBCs and MBCs that hitherto stayed mostly with the BJP. He claimed that poor from all sections consistently voted for BSP. Incidentally, only Prof Yadav on CNN-IBN channel came close to foretelling the BSP's numbers correctly in the exit poll analysis.

While Indian Media is agog with the now famous Dalit-Brahmin coalition, is the Bahujan theory of Kanshiram lost? Read this. Just to show how much the party values OBCs, Swami Prasad Maurya, BSP's leader of opposition in the outgoing assembly, lost the elections but still got the cabinet birth with an all important revenue portfolio.

One wonders why the upper castes would have voted for the dalit party. There could be at least two extreme reasons. One, they have nothing to do with the party's social coalition and that they just wanted their own empowerment whether it is a MLA post or a cabinet birth. BJP and SP could not provide it for different reasons and hence their association with the Dalits for power. Second, the upper castes are now ready to be lead by a Dalit woman whom they think as a competent
administrator. In either case, the BSP benefited being the first choice of the majority population.

If the UP success continues in some other states, BSP's 50-60 Member of Parliament in 2009 will hold key to the Prime Ministers post. Currently, the party is a National Party recognized by the Election commission. M.P and Rajastan - where BSP has considerable presence in some pockets - will definitely feel the heat of Maya wave too. In Capital City, just before the UP polls, the party won 15 Delhi Municipal seats without the party chief campaigning.

In Maharastra too the party fared well in Vidharbha in the loksabha polls in 2004 leaving the fragmented RPI Dalit leadership worrying. BSP critics in Maharashtra who often accuses Mayawati of being hand-in-glove with BJP reacted cautiously and emphasized that the elephant march will not have any impact in Maharashtra. They fail to cotton on to the fact that it is the rise of BSP that has communal BJP to its weakest ever total in UP since 1989.

If BSP handles the dual challenge of good governance and upliftment of downtrodden, it may very well begin the journey towards its active involvement in National Politics.

In his rare campaign outing, Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had reminded the people of the Pokharan nuclear test on 11th May few years ago. He had claimed that when the ballot boxes open on 11th May in UP, they would feel Pokhran-like tremor.

Well, he was true in one sense! There was indeed an earth-quake! But this one has bamboozled the BJP and its hope of surge ahead of the Loksabha elections due in 2009.


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