BSP In Uttar Pradesh Is Steadily Leaking Leaders: Is Mayawati Unravelling The Party Or Reinventing It?
While the breakaway leaders accuse Mayawati of arrogance, she seems to be critical of party leaders because they are ‘bikaau’ (for sale), and hence, untrustworthy
In the 2017 assembly elections, Bahujan Samaj Party headed by Mayawati was routed in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The party won 19 seats, with around 22 per cent vote share.
In comparison, BSP had won 80 seats with 26 per cent vote share in the 2012 assembly elections when it was ousted from power by the Samajwadi Party (SP).
After the 2017 poll results, many analysts had gloomy predictions for Behenji in particular, and the ‘Bahujan’ politics in general. They argued that despite being on the scene for over a century, they had still not captured imagination of people. Not to mention the near complete withdrawal of Brahmins from politics, which exposed the fissures and fragility of bahujan/brahmanetar.
Another scholar argued that regional parties like BSP, SP etc. started from a social justice agenda for lower castes, then went on to become a single caste (Jatav, Yadav) party and finally turned into a family enterprise — “SP, RJD, JD(U) and JD(S) are trailblazers in reducing social justice to caste mobilisation to a sub-caste concern to a family business”.
Mayawati received flak when she appointed her brother Anand Kumar as the party’s vice-president and nephew Akash Anand as the national coordinator — not for nepotism, but for putting family ahead of party interest. The recommendations from the intellectual quarters, broadly, were, one, shun the pragmatic centrism and project more affinity to the left ideology; and two, reinvent themselves as more than a family enterprise.
What is currently happening in BSP, whether it is ‘unravelling’ or ‘reinvention’, only time will tell.
On Tuesday (15 June), a group of rebel BSP MLAs met SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and claimed that they would soon announce their own party. Rebel MLA Aslam Raini reportedly said that they have the support of 11 BSP MLAs who would form their own legislature party, and the new leader would decide their future course of action.
Last year, during the Rajya Sabha polls, Raini with other four MLAs had met Akhilesh Yadav and claimed that their support to the BSP candidate was forged. Subsequently, Mayawati suspended seven MLAs for anti-party activities.
Recently, she also purged veterans Lalji Verma and Ram Achal Rajbhar who have been with the party since the time of Kanshi Ram.
Since 2015, BSP has been leaking leaders. Founding members Lok Sabha MP Dara Singh Chauhan (expelled), Rajya Sabha MP Jugal Kishore (resigned), and former minister Fateh Bahadur Singh all joined BJP.
In 2016, then Legislature Party leader Swami Prasad Maurya accused BSP of taking bribes and deceiving Dalits, and left the party, and Mayawati expelled the party’s Brahmin face Brijesh Pathak. Both are now BJP ministers.
Another founder member and “Pasi” face for BSP, R K Chaudhary, joined SP Just before the 2017 polls. He quit SP when it allied with BSP in 2019 and joined the Congress party, but this year rejoined SP.
In 2017, Mayawati’s close aide Indrajeet Saroj defected to SP. Another long-time aide, Naseemuddin Siddiqui, a strong Muslim face of the party, was expelled by Mayawati. He later joined Congress.
The defectors argue that it is the autocratic ways of Mayawati that are responsible for the loss of long time committed members like Lalji Verma and Ram Achal Rajbhar.
“Why leaders.. who have put their personal lives at stake to support the cause of the party, not given opportunity to vent their views? Following a call from Mayawati, Verma had returned to Lucknow within 24 hours of his son’s death. Even such leaders are suspended without giving them opportunity to explain themselves,” rebel MLA Raini was quoted as saying by Indian Express.
R K Chaudhary said:
“The party has been completely digressed from the movement of Kanshi Ram. She is taking the party towards downfall by becoming increasingly unapproachable and increasing dissent. She likes to do things on her terms and thus opinions or suggestions against that view are unacceptable. While there is no denying that there is still a section of Dalit that regards her as their leader, how long will that continue if they feel she will not fight those who have oppressed them?”
While the breakaway leaders accuse Mayawati of arrogance, remaining out of reach, and supporting any party in power; the latter seems to be critical of party leaders because they are ‘bikaau’ (for sale), and hence, untrustworthy. Behenji seems to be putting an emphasis on the cadre instead.
On Saturday, BSP supremo Mayawati held a meeting with the leaders of different communities. Mayawati reportedly told the high functionaries present at the meeting that they should trust the cadre and not the “selfish” leaders who can be bought and sold.
She directed them to keep helping and reaching out to the poor suffering due to the pandemic, and asked the leaders to keep holding smaller local level meetings of the cadre to strengthen the party at the grassroots.
BSP has seen many splits in the past. After remaining out of power for ten years, the coffers are empty, and leaders are somewhat demoralised. The alliance with SP in 2017 elections possibly did more harm than good. It is possible that Behenji is playing the long game, focussing on the basics.
It remains to be seen if the BSP will be able to carry out a poll campaign that captures the imagination of the people of the state. The advantage BSP has over SP is that it can continue the promise of freedom from gundaraj with which BJP rose to power; and it is generally seen as less corrupt.
With imaginative schemes and promises, BSP can attract a population stressed by the pandemic. In five years’ time, fissures have emerged in BJP’s electoral base that BSP can exploit. It can still rebuild the Dalit-Brahman coalition as before, although it would be much harder.
The rise of BJP has shaken the traditional patronage politics in the state, and is forcing other parties to offer more than doles — a powerful ideological stance. A strong face like Yogi Adityanath is also a challenge.
On the other hand, the BSP, in its current shape, is organisationally weak, and lacks grassroot connect and outreach to different communities. Behenji has her work cutout.
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