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Low-key Maya Keeps Everyone Guessingover Her Poll Strategy And Bsp Prospects

(This story originally appeared in on Jan 09, 2022)

She is someone who has had the maximum experience in leading Uttar Pradesh among the active politicians but four-time chief minister Mayawati’s absence amid the ongoing political blitzkrieg in the state and a relatively low-key campaign by Bahujan Samaj Party till now has left political pundits puzzled.

Many feel this election is crucial for the 65-year-old Dalit czarina to keep the BSP movement alive and independent.

In a bid to replicate her party’s thunderous success in the 2007 UP assembly polls, Mayawati asked her close political aide, party MP Satish Chandra Mishra to hold prabuddha sammelans (intellectual meets) directed at consolidating Brahmin votes as part of its social engineering programme. This was followed by a targeted attempt to improve BSP’s performance in reserved constituencies, where the party has traditionally not recorded a very impressive performance. These meetings too were addressed by Mishra, whose wife Kalpana is now leading the party’s mahila morcha while son Kapil is being projected as a youth leader.

Party members say that the outfit has been active on ground, holding meetings and organizing cadres but when and if Mayawati steps out, it will make a massive difference to cadre morale.

It is too early to write off the party despite its shrinking vote share over the past couple of elections, say political experts, citing a dedicated base of supporters for the party which has stuck with Mayawati for years. “The anti-incumbency against BJP may drive voters towards BSP, a party which many still remember for its excellent administration and law and order when Mayawati was CM,” says a party member.

The other front on which the party has found itself weakened is the continuous departure of senior party members in recent months. A party which had won 19 seats in the previous assembly election has just three members currently. Among the 16 who are no longer there, Sukhdev Rajbhar passed away in 2021. The remaining are either suspended or have resigned and many have moved to Samajwadi Party. This week, with the departure of former MP and Ambedkarnagar strongman Rakesh Pandey to SP, the party finds itself on shaky grounds even in one of its strongest constituencies.

Not only has BSP lost many influential members, the situation has further exacerbated the shortage of OBC leaders in the party.

Over the past few years, the Dalit vote too has split in UP with largely Jatavs favouring BSP. BJP’s landslide victory in the last two elections in UP have shown that it has drawn from across castes, gender and age. BSP insiders say that the absence of any significant OBC leader in the party, especially after several just shifted to SP including its former state president Ram Achal Rajbhar and leader of the party in the assembly Lalji Verma, could further dent its appeal among the backward classes.

On the last few occasions where Mayawati has interacted with the media and has been asked about her course of action, she asked people not to speculate or more recently, projected this as a considered decision due to a paucity of funds. Sources, who say that her rallies will finally start once the election dates are announced, also express their concern about a seeming lack of plan in the party.

Social scientist Badri Narayan says it is too soon to speculate on BSP’s future and the course will become much clearer once Mayawati becomes active and a clear analysis of the polls would only be possible then.

“Understandably, it is an expensive proposition to step out before the dates are announced. I believe it is premature to say that there is just one challenger to BJP in the state and the third front is very much alive. How the situation pans out depends very much on how she campaigns and when she starts. The obvious interpretation of the situation is that there will be a last mile push by her,” he said.

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