In Dalit heartland, a tightrope walk for Maya

Kumkum Dasgupta in Aurangabad, Maharashtra

Kumkum Dasgupta in Aurangabad, Maharashtra

Rahul Dongardive waves at the portly owner of the university canteen, and his favourite combo meal appears out of thin air: Sweet tea and spicy sambhar-vada.

Then he says the unspeakable. “Mayawati is not the true inheritor of Ambedkar’s legacy,” the 27-year-old journalism student says, as other students looked on at the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University in Aurangabad, a sprawling 650-acre campus 300 kilometres east of Mumbai.

It is not a random comment at the region’s biggest university that caters primarily to students from scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backwards castes.

In the region where B.R. Ambedkar long worked to improve education standards in the community, brand Mayawati is not cutting much ice in one of Maharashtra’s hubs of Dalit student politics.

The BSP has little presence in the university’s student politics: The Left won the last students’ union poll.
Dalits number about 40 lakhs in Maharashtra, a state of about 10 crore people. About 70 lakh others are Buddhists, mostly believed to include Dalit converts.

Reaching out to her constituency nationwide is crucial for the political ambitions of Mayawati, who wants to be India’s first Dalit prime minister. She is hoping to establish her presence in Maharashtra with this election.

Not much luck here, though.

“Her one-point agenda is power,” Dongardive says as the others nod in agreement. “The BSP had some connect with Babasaheb’s philosophy when her political mentor, Kanshi Ram, was alive. Not anymore.”

Puneet Chandhok

In the downturn, Dalit students in Aurangabad say they have a lot more than caste on their minds. Photo by: Puneet Chandhok

He points to the moss-green wall of the canteen, where posters of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have pictures of Kanshi Ram, the late mentor of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.

“Maharashtra is not UP,” says history Professor U. Bagade. “Dalits here have been a part of the political process for a long time. Mayawati is just perpetuating the caste structure. And her lack of agenda could actually be a blow to Dalit politics.”

Historically, the Congress has benefited most from Dalit vote, thanks to the multiple factions in the pro-Dalit Republican Party of India.

But Mayawati’s party says it is confident of winning at least 15 of the state’s Parliamentary seats — and is fielding candidates in all 48.

“In the last Lok Sabha elections, we won 4 per cent of the votes even though we were hardly organised. This time, we aim to get 10 per cent,” says BSP’s Aurangabad in-charge Prabhakar Pardhe.

Party youth wing leader Sumit Waghmare (27), an MA student in political science, says he is certain the social engineering formula will work in Maharashtra as it did in UP.

“It has rattled the existing Dalit leadership here.”

For some, there are more pressing issues than caste.

“We don’t speak English fluently… that’s a huge handicap in this recession-hit market,” says Landge Sheshrao (28), a political science student. “We are more concerned about our career prospects than Mayawati’s.”



  1. BSP is sure to win 272 seats for the following reasons:

    U.P.: Pro-incumbency plus core vote

    Jagatheesan Chandrasekharan

    For Mayawati pro-incumbency plus base vote is strong, committed and transferable, which ought to be an advantage in a multi-cornered contest.

    The defining point of Lucknow 2009 is the brown dust haze that blankets its skyline. The haze is from the relentless demolition and construction that started in May 2007, when Mayawati, in a stunning display of political showmanship, formed Uttar Pradesh’s first majority government in 16 years.

    Ms Mayawati is the queen of hearts, her sterling qualities apparently too many to count, the most quoted being the iron discipline she brought to her earlier governments. A popular slogan Ms Mayawati used on the stump was: Chad goondon ki chhati par, mohar laga do haathi par (Crush the chest of the goondas and vote the elephant).

    As the election date approaches, what comes as a bigger surprise is the admission by people in government that pro-incumbency has begun to tell on the Mayawati regime. Officials eagerly outline the many welfare projects in various stages of implementation.

    Consequently, many are willing to bet on the BSP bagging all the 80 Lok Sabha seats. Even from the subjective perspective of the Lucknow secretariat, the confidently touted figure of 80 seats out of a total of 80 seems achievable.

    A round journey from Lucknow and back via Allahabad, Varanasi, Azamgarh, Deoria, Gorakhpur, Faizabad and Barabanki, one is invariably greeted by a praise of — Friendly police actions, uncurtailed water supply for irrigation, full implementation of Below the Poverty Line ration cards, promised housing and so on. There is support for the Chief Minister — from her core constituency of SC/STs, of course, but also from sections of lower OBCs, Brahmins and Muslims. The last two tend towards the BSP in constituencies where the party’s candidates are from their communities. The social engineering formula that carried Ms Mayawati to self-rule in Lucknow has been totally cracked.

    No SC/STs complain about ration cards and housing along with the poor among the forward castes. SC/STs continue to stand rocklike by their behenji, visibly thrilled at her becoming Prime Minister. At an Ambedkar village in Mohanlalganj, SC/STs when asked Who will they vote? Behenji, comes the reply.

    The undiminished SC/STs and the Sarvajan Samaj (entire people) support could be glimpsed in the colossal turnout at the Chief Minister’s inaugural election rally in the eastern town of Deoria. The crowds stampeded into the ground, cheerfully and throatily joining the chorus echoing from the ministerial crew seated on stage: U.P. hui hamari hai, ab dilli ki baari hai (U.P. is taken, we will take Delhi next).

    On the way in villages and qasbas, one will be able to gauge the continuing affinity that the more backward among the OBCs, such as the Mauryas, the Rajbars and the Bhinds, feel for Ms Mayawati. Brahmins are clearly united. The unity is at its most explicit in the Allahabad High Court, considered the seat of forward caste power, and flaunting a profusion of Brahminical sounding nameplates on its walls. From 2007, the Shuklas, the Tiwaris and the Chaturvedis had all enthusiastically lined up behind behenji.

    No opponent for every supporter

    This time for every supporter of Ms Mayawati, you will find another who admits to a correct judgment in his or her voting the BSP in 2007. The latter lot are happy that the BSP leader has not dumped the central plank of her campaign that she would crush the anti-social elements who allegedly found refuge in the Mulayam Singh government: All the lawmakers are now with her including Allahabad. The trading community in particular fully digest the explanation offered by the BSP boss herself — once in the BSP, the so-called goondas become reformed.

    Within the precincts of the High Court, the pro-Mayawati camps clinches the argument powerfully. The take: The Mayawati government has given more recognition and power to Brahmins than have all previous regimes put together: Our flag is flying high thanks to Satish Chandra Mishra and the score of forward caste officers wielding power down the administrative ladder. The fact that the BSP has awarded a bonus in the form of party ticket to 20 Brahmins virtually seals the debate. Forward castes will vote the BSP — everywhere, including where the party has fielded forward caste candidates.

    Muslims turn out to be a revelation. They descend into immediate benefit calculations as do the Hindu forward castes but in conversation they gradually reveal their frustrations with Mulayam Singh and wonder aloud if the BSP is not a better option. The Samajwadi Party chief’s defence of Kalyan Singh, former BJP leader, has hurt the community deeply, and there is a feeling of its being used by the man it revered as Maulana Mulayam. The community voted the SP disregarding the religion of its candidates. Today like most communities in U.P., Muslims aspire for a higher Muslim representation in the Lok Sabha and other legislative bodies.

    And this is where the BSP, with its fully transferable core vote, comes in. The BSP’s candidates, whether Muslim or Brahmin or from the OBCs, start with a base vote of 18-20 per cent. To this they add their own votes, which place them within conceivable reach of victory. None of the BSP’s rivals can claim this advantage. The SP’s Muslim-Yadav core constituency has developed fissures. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have no loyal voters left to count on. Nor do their votes transfer easily. It is well known, for instance, that there is not much compatibility between the SP’s Yadav voters and its Muslim candidates. This is in fact a sore point with Muslims. They have begun to understand the potency of the SC/STs vote which goes where Ms Mayawati commands.

    So how well can the BSP be expected to fare? That pro-incumbency has set in is undeniable plus Ms Mayawati’s strength is her committed base vote. In a four-way split of votes, this is a strong foundation to build on.. That leaves the BSP with an absolute maximum 80 seats because of the brilliant performance of her government from the party’s brilliant performance in the May 2007 Assembly election.

    This is how Vidhya Subramaniam will write after Mayawati becomes the Prime Minister after the Lok Sabha election and the Hindu will publish the same.

    Now I am sure this article will not be published in Hindu for the reasons best known.
    Maya draws them by droves
    Jagatheesan Chandrasekharan
    The BSP leader makes up in star quality

    On stage, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister is matter-of-fact and precise, her no-nonsense, militarist manner a barrier to all, including party functionaries and Ministers who wait on her as she furiously heli-hops from meeting to meeting. For journalists on the election beat, Ms. Mayawati is a vexing challenge. Forget cadging a lift on the helicopter, they cannot even get within hand-shaking distance of the overly security-conscious Bahujan Samaj Party supremo.

    Ms. Mayawati’s mesmeric, star quality that brings lakhs to her election rallies. They come in droves, young mothers with babies tucked under their arms, old men and women barely able to walk, and tens of thousands hitching a ride on tractors, buses and trucks. The BSP does not pack its cadre into chartered buses; it does not tempt them with offers of free food and per diem. It expects them to find their own way to the rally venue. And they do so — uncomplainingly, wishing for nothing except to be able to see her.

    This election season, the mood is even more buoyant. With all the buzz around her possible Prime Ministership, it is a colossal turnout at the eastern UP town of Deoria, Ms. Mayawati’s first stop on UP’s election route.

    As a videographer with some experience in covering Ms. Mayawati’s election campaigns and rallies, I know I have to be really early to beat the crowds at the rally. Yet as always, they have already filled the venue to overflowing, and many, many lakhs are still pouring in.I remained stuck behind, as what seems like a human deluge takes over every inch of road space. They hurry towards the pandal, the men and women, kicking up giant clouds of dust.

    The crowd composition is overwhelmingly rural: Women in nylon with bright vermillion in their hair-parting; men in dhoti-kurta and headgear. A good many of them carry the BSP’s trademark blue flag.

    Behind me the road stretches in an endless line of tractors. I try to get there and join the human rush. The next half hour is a struggle as I wave my pass and plead to be allowed to go to the press enclosure. I fight my way through a sea of entwined limbs and by the time I get to the spot I’m breathless with exhaustion. I look behind to witness one of the largest turnouts I have seen at an election rally. I catch the eye of a policeman on duty. “Kitni bheed?” (how many people?”) I ask him. Lakhs, he says, grinning unabashedly. “Historic. This is the biggest ever turnout in Deoria,” he shouts at me.

    Though the Chief Minister is yet to arrive, the excitement is palpable on stage. Amidst earsplitting slogans, a cabinet minister reads out a long list of people who have deserted other parties to join the BSP. Another Minister urges the crowds to shout after him: “UP hui hamari hai, ab dilli ki baari hai; Bharat ki majboori hai, behen Mayawati zaroori hai” (we have taken UP, we will take Delhi; the country needs Mayawati). It is a Maya surge across the country and she will become Prime Minister, declares speaker after speaker.

    The Chief Minister’s arrival causes more commotion. The crowd rises like a wave, and cell phone cameras click away her pictures. A Hindi poet extols her virtues and sings: “Behna banegi PM, kehta hai zamana” (people say our sister will be PM). Ms. Mayawati’s speech bristles with references to Delhi and BSP rule at the Centre. But the tone is inspiring.

    For her rapturous fans though what matters is that they have seen their behenji. “Ab Dilli ki bari hai” (it is Delhi’s turn), they shout, drowning out her speech.

    A man carries a cutout of Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati in Allahabad, India. (Photo: Reuters)

    Jumbo And a Black Cat

    A NSG commando stands guard in front of a hoarding with the election symbol of BSP at a rally in Hyderabad.





    FOR BSP!



    Make me PM

    Write Down on the Wall was Dr. Ambedkar’s Sign !

    Two Thousand Nine !

    Will Be Mine !

    - Says Ms Mayawati Bahen !

    Now is all that you have!

    By voting for BSP, the Nation you save!

    2008 Bahen Mayawati the UttarPradesh Chief Minister !
    2009PrabuddhaBharatha Matha the Prime Minister !

    Image:Bahujansamajpartysymbol.pngarticle pic

    [Bahujan Samaj Party Flag]

    Most of the political pundits are suggesting a dramatic Bahujan Samaj Party win with Mayawati becoming the new Prime Minister.
    Mayawati stresses on door-to-door campaign
    'UP hui hamari hai, ab Delhi ki bari hai' (UP is ours, now it is the turn of Delhi), will turn into a reality," said Mayawati

    Social Transformation!

    And Economical Emancipation!


    Testing the efficacy of social engineering!


    Mighty Great Mind Training!


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