By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
All the parties are gearing up for the early next year elections of Uttar Pradesh (UP). The recent reshuffle of union cabinet by the Prime Minister with the better representation to the UP is the way of BJP soothing the ruffled feathers of certain sections of the society in that state. The statement of RSS Chief Mohan Bhagavat that “all Indians sharing the common DNA” and “ Hindutva is against religious discrimination” may also be the part of BJP strategy for the coming elections to attract new communities. The Samajvadi Party (SP), perceived challenger to the BJP in UP, is also making its own preparation to strengthen their Yadav-Muslim combination and to add many other smaller caste based parties in the state. Caste is undoubtedly dominant factor in UP for so many decades. In the likely multi cornered contest the parties in UP are evolving unashamedly the caste oriented strategies. In that caste conundrum politics the role of BSP and its unquestioned leader Mayawati is relevant in electoral outcome.
Mayawati is always considered as a maverick politician. Her unpredictability often made her lonely in the political arena with no other party ready to either extend a friendly hand or take her friendly hand when extended. It was always her penchant for my word my position which has finally took her to the current situation. UP which is once considered as a strong fort for Dalit power politics which took BSP into power in 2007 got slowly weakened and Mayawati’s grip over Dalit vote bank is no more that visible. Left with very little command of those sections in the UP elections BSP supremo is left with no option but to go back to her winning 2007 formula of cultivation Brahmin community votes.
BSP, since its founding, has coined the word ‘Manuvadis’ to deride the upper castes and even went to the extent of asking their cadre to physically assault the ‘perceived upper castes’. The 1989 slogan of BSP was ‘Tilak tarazu aur Talwar ..inko maaro joote chaar’. That slogan has not given the power, though the Dalit voters got some pleasure in verbally deriding the upper castes.
The entry of Satish Chandra Mishra into BSP has changed the tactics of the party. Mayawati was forced to realize the futility of rising anti-Manu rhetoric and on the advice of Brahmin in BSP Satish Mishra, the slogan got changed to “Haathi (Elephant, the BSP election symbol) nahin Ganesh (Hindu God) hai..Brahma Vishnu Mahesh hai”, thus reducing his anti-Hindu tirade. Despite her reduced anti-upper caste postures the BSP couldn’t make any electoral impact in UP. The Naredra Modi wave swept BSP away with no representative of that party in the current Lok Sabha. The BSP, as a party, lost direction in the last decade. That was partly because of her political mistakes and partly BJP gaining the confidence of the SC/ST communities through its concerted efforts. Mayawati made the mistake of promoting her own Jathav community among the SCs in the power structure of BSP making other SC communities to feel ‘letdown’. Moreover the prominent position offered to Satish Mishra, a Manuvadi, was not liked by her followers. Promotion of her family members in the party at several levels also became a negative issue with BSP cadre. The emergence of Chandrasekhar Azad, named himself as Ravan, as an alternative leader for Dalits, with his more virulent activity has weaned away large sections of SCs. Bhim Party founded by Chandra Sekhar Azad is more a threat to Mayavati rather than BJP.
Mayawati is now buffeted between dwindling party cadre and loss of sheen of her earlier ferocious anti-Manuvadi speeches. Though caste is a dominant factor in UP the SC communities are not united in their fight and even some of those sections are close to BJP rather than BSP. The Smajvadi Party (SP) is also responsible in pushing SCs into BJP fold. The SP’s aggressive Yadav dominant politics in the rural areas are threatening the SC communities from their assertion. With BSP in not so strong and not in a position to protect them the next best bet for the SCs is BJP, the ruling party both at the state and center. The Ayodhya court verdict in Hindu’s favour and the pace with which the temple work is coming up has added pride to be associated with BJP for the SC communities, unlike in southern states where they moved to Christian fold, remained staunch Hindus.
The only alternative for Mayawati left to remain relevant electorally is to toe the line of Hindutva and it seems she is now following the soft-Hindutva, the failed strategy of Congress party during the 2017-18 elections in different states. Forgetting her Manuvadi barbs, Mayawati now stands by Brahmins. She now repeatedly talks about the sufferings of the Brahmins under the Adityanadh lead BJP government. Since the Congress party is also working for Brahmin votes it became apparent for Mayawati to project early bird image towards Brahmin community. Brahmin sammelans under the banner of Parasurama, one of the Dasavatara of Vishnu, a Brahmin who single handedly wiped out the Kshatriya community as per Puranans. By projecting Parasurama, the BSP wish to create a wedge between Brahmins and Kshatriyas, the community to which the incumbent CM Yogi Adityanadh belongs.
As a part of soft-Hindutva the BSP has planned conclaves in all major Hindu religious places to project Mayawati as a messiah of not only SCs but for all Hindus. Starting with a convention in the last week of July in Ayodhya it is planning conclaves in Varanasi, Chitrakoot, and Mathura-Brindavan. In all the BSP meetings the theme is the same. It wants to project itself as a party with Hindu heart and Ayodhya Ram Mandir construction as a priority. “We will expedite the building of Ram temple if voted to power” is the latest promise of BSP.
With all parties focusing on castes in UP, the voters in that state may be compelled to cast their castes on the polling day. Whether it is good for society is the question.
(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at email@example.com)