Playing it BACKWARD
All major political parties are involved in an intense fight to consolidate their support base among backward classes in UP
Pradeep Kapoor Lucknow
It's a tough time for BSP supremo, Mayawati, in Uttar Pradesh. On one hand, she is fighting the Samajwadi Party to consolidate votes of backward classes. On the other hand, she has to battle the Congress which has eaten into her dalit vote bank.
All major political parties are involved in an intense fight to consolidate their vote bank in the run-up to what is being called the 'mini general elections'. In the next few months, elections will be held for 12 assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat in UP.
After the erosion of her support base among Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits in the Lok Sabha polls, Mayawati started a blame game. She blamed Muslims for not supporting the BSP. Then, she realised that Brahmins had also deserted her and there was no enthusiasm among Dalits to vote for the BSP.
A shocked Mayawati held a series of meetings with ministers, party MPs, MLAs and other important office bearers. She dissolved all district level bhaichara committees and announced an overhaul of the party organisation.
She announced that the state would be divided into 10 zones as far as the party organisation is concerned. She instructed party leaders to appoint members from the backward communities in important positions in the BSP.
Cabinet minister and Mayawati's trusted lieutenant, Babu Singh Khushwaha, is being projected as the backward face of the party. Mayawati has authorised him to interact with ministers and party MPs and MLAs regularly and apprise the chief minister of their problems.
Post-poll, Mayawati realised that it was a mistake to give most of BSP tickets to Brahmins. That had cost her BSP's traditional Dalit voters who deserted her. So, she has now nominated two members from backward communities, Ganga Charan Rajput and Sriram Pal, for Rajya Sabha seats.
Rajput is from the Lodh community. He was pitted against Varun Gandhi in Pilibhit and lost his deposit. Pal is an old party loyalist. Mayawati is giving importance to Rajput to cut into the Lodh Rajput base of Kalyan Singh, considered as undisputed leader of the community. Also, it's a strategy to fight the Kalyan-Mulayam combine. The Lodh Rajputs are considered a valuable vote bank among backward communities after Yadavs and Kurmis.
With Amar Singh not keeping well, Kalyan Singh, who won as an independent candidate from Etah, is gradually emerging as Mulayam's advisor for consolidation of SP's presence among backward communities.
After Mulayam joined hands with Kalyan Singh, Muslims deserted SP. The seat share of the party came down to 23 from 35 seats it won in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. Now, the SP cannot bank on Muslims, who had supported the party since 1990.
Speaking to Hardnews, Kalyan Singh said that the main fight in UP would be to consolidate support among backward classes, who account for 62 per cent of the population in UP.
Kalyan Singh has advised Mulayam to give prominence to other backward communities besides Yadavs in the party's organisation. He also informed Hardnews of his plans to take out a rath yatra with Mulayam in UP to expose the misrule of the Mayawati government and drum up support among backward classes.
Like their fathers, sons Akhilesh Yadav and Rajbir Singh, too, teamed up and extensively toured areas dominated by backward classes. That apparently helped the party win more seats. Rajbir, however, doesn't want to contest the by-election from Firozabad Lok Sabha seat vacated by Akhilesh. Rajbir, national general secretary of the SP, said he would work for the party.
According to political observers, Mulayam, his son Akhilesh and nephew Dharmendra won their seats in the Lok Sabha election only because of Kalyan Singh's help.
Since Brahmins and Dalits are returning to Congress as seen in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the main fight in the next assembly polls would be between the SP and the Congress, felt Kalyan Singh. He predicted that the BJP and the BSP would be relegated to the margins.
That is why Mayawati is fighting the Congress to retain her Dalit voters. She was so unnerved by the Congress' programme to celebrate Rahul Gandhi's birthday on June 19 as 'Samrasta Diwas'(day of harmony) and host feasts for Dalits in their bastis, she announced a programme on the same day to counter its effect.
During her address to BSP ministers and important leaders, she distributed leaflets criticising Rahul Gandhi's reaching out to Dalits as sham. She also called Mahatama Gandhi natakbaaz for his pro-Dalit stand.
BSP observed June 19 as 'Shame Diwas' and organised meetings across the country. She addressed a public meeting at Lucknow collectorate. Her fading charm was seen in the rally where people left even before she finished her address.
Although Rahul was not in the country on his birthday, Congress' strategy to woo Dalits on that occasion was a success. Congress spokesman, Subodh Srivastav, told Hardnews that lakhs of Congress workers reached out to Dalits and shared a meal with them all over UP.