Mayawati, the four-time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh belongs to that rare breed of politicians who have managed to keep themselves relevant for decades. The BSP supremo remained relevant for almost three decades because she was never ‘rigid’ in her ideological considerations. Mayawati ‘realigned’ her party’s ideological gears and pistons, whenever there was a need.
Mayawati’s politics started on the note of consolidation of Scheduled Caste votes as the party effectively segregated SC castes from the combined Hindu vote bloc, something whose groundwork was laid down by her predecessor and political godfather Kanshi Ram. She never shied away from spreading hatred against upper castes with incendiary quotes such as Tilak, Taraju aur Talwa, inko maaro jute chaar’ (Beat the bearers of Tilak, Balance and Sword with shoes). Needless to say, that Tilak stood for Brahmins, Taraju for Vaishya, and Talwar represented Kshatriyas. The party repeatedly reminded the lower castes about how the upper castes have oppressed them and as a result of it, she became a deity for millions of Scheduled caste people in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
But realization soon dawned on her, when she comprehended that her party could not come to power with full majority without the support of upper caste voters. Mayawati failed to complete a full term in power despite the fact that she managed to grab the CM chair 3 times between mid 90s to mid 2000s. Therefore, the party reached out to Brahmins. Satish Chandra Mishra, an influential Brahmin became her saviour as the party slogan now switched to Haathi nahin, Ganesh hain, Brahma, Vishnu Mahesh Hain: “It’s not just an elephant (the BSP logo), it’s Bhagwan Ganesha, the trinity of gods rolled into one”.
Sloganeering, reach-out campaigns and Mishra’s machinations worked as the party stormed to power with full majority in 2007 assembly election and performed very well in 2009 general elections. But the fortunes of Mayawati started dwindling after Modi-Shah duo came out of Gujarat politics and started dominating the national landscape. PM Modi’s charismatic personality and spellbinding oratory, Amit Shah’s backroom strategies and a historic consolidation of Hindu votes shut shops of many regional parties. Nationalistic identity trumped every other identity and PM Modi stormed to power in 2014 with a historic mandate. Mayawati’s party could not win a single seat in Lok Sabha in 2014 general election. The same saga was to repeat in the 2017 UP assembly elections. Mayawati realized that BJP was way too formidable an opponent and conquering it will require allies. She allied with arch-rival Samajwadi Party which was battling for relevance and was caught amid a bitter family feud. in 2019 general elections, the two parties joined hands as Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati happily showed Victory signs for the puzzled shutterbugs. However, the alliance could win only 15 seats, in which Mayawati claimed 10 and SP was left foaming at its mouth with a dismal 5. Every other constituency was swept by the BJP.
The ever-changing Mayawati learnt another valuable lesson. She realized that in New India, Elections could not be won without an ardent Nationalist stance. It was time to align the wheels of the party again and as a result of it, a nationalistic BSP was born. Since 2019 elections, the party has stood resolutely behind PM Modi on every issue concerning National Security and Integrity.
Maywati supported the BJP government’s move to abrogate Article 370, which granted special rights to the state of Jammu & Kashmir. She didn’t just support Modi government’s move but also slammed Congress government for not doing it earlier. In her own words “…Had the Congress Party completed the work of ending Article 370 during the long period of its rule, today the conditions in Jammu and Kashmir would have been better and the BJP would not have got an opportunity to play politics under its pretext,”.
As Mayawati spoke, she was setting new rules for UP politics and it was a move clearly aimed at downgrading Akhilesh Yadav as just another anti-national. Needless to say, Bua ji as Akhilesh fondly used to address her once, outsmarted the Bhatija in the game of realpolitik.
Mayawati is smarter leader than Akhilesh Yadav and she was smart enough to smell the coffee and read the writing on the wall. Akhilesh on his part, remained clueless and his stance ranged from half-hearted rejection of the move to a complete lull.
The lack of fight and reactiveness in Akhilesh has costed him 2 general and 1 state assembly elections already. It may also be noted that BSP, highlighted in the parliament, that BR Ambedkar too was strongly opposed to the special provisions given to Jammu & Kashmir. Mayawati’s support mattered in Lok Sabha where the party had 10 MPs. The Jatav community is a major vote bank of the BSP and it may not have gone down well with them had BSP opposed such a nationalist move. Keeping in mind the 2022 elections, it was supremely wise for Mayawati to take such a step.
Scheduled Castes, the primary vote bank of Mayawati are among those communities who ardently supported the ‘National cause’ since 1857, the first war of Indian Independence. “A careful appraisal of the period shows that unsung heroes like Matadin Bhangi and Jhalkari Bai made possible the legends woven around the likes of Mangal Pandey and Rani Laxmi Bai,” said Badri Narayan Tiwari of the Gobind Ballabh Pant Institute of Social Sciences in Allahabad.
Tiwari also criticized the leftist historians of Congress ecosystem for not recognizing the contribution of Scheduled castes in Indian National movement. “These historians are guided by the Ambedkerite logic that the lower castes could never have any sympathy for the Hindu ruling class, which was spearheading the revolt. However, this argument fails to take into account the fact that the 1857 era is now being utilised by the Dalit community itself to assert its pride,” said Tiwari.
The ‘nationalist move’ shows ideological flexibility of Mayawati and her ability to sense the national sentiments. She kept herself relevant in Indian politics for more than two decades due to her supreme survival instincts. For 2022 assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, it is very safe to assume that Maywati is going to be principal opposition for the BJP.