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On UP’s political turf, a new rivalry is unfolding: Mayawati vs Priyanka Gandhi

The UP assembly election is two years away, but Mayawati’s attacks on Priyanka Gandhi suggest that the latter is doing something right, politically of course.

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The world this year has witnessed many unexpected situations unfold, and the world of politics is no different. The bonhomie at display between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati—hugging each other on stage at the swearing-in ceremony of then Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy in May 2018—has turned into a turf war for Uttar Pradesh where Mayawati and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are at loggerheads.

Also read: Not just Mayawati, these are the unsung women who led Kanshiram’s Bahujan struggle

Mayawati’s new-found strategy

Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is facing an identity crisis, but the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister refuses to go down—despite no second rung of leadership in sight—without a fight. She’s chosen Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the object of her wrath to change her political fortunes. Attacking the top Congress leader from Gandhi family, in a way, makes her an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and also gives political observers the chance to analyse her past association with the BJP. Mayawati had taken the BJP’s support, which essentially holds the upper caste Hindu vote bank in the state, to form government in Uttar Pradesh in 1995.

With the BSP’s dismal performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Mayawati quickly accepted the dominance of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. She didn’t squeak a word of displeasure when BJP usurped BSP’s 2007 slogan of ‘Sarvajan Hitay Sarvajan Sukhay’ (for the welfare of one an all). The slogan is significant because Mayawati won the 2007 Uttar Pradesh assembly election by bringing the Brahmin and Dalit voters together. Priyanka Gandhi, too, is out to woo the same voter base. Mayawati feels the competition, and is therefore, not letting go any opportunity to attack Priyanka Gandhi.

Be it her soft stance at all-party meeting on the Modi government’s handling of the LAC crisis with China, or her praise for the Uttar Pradesh government’s efforts to bring back labourers, Mayawati is cosying up to the BJP.

That’s not all. Mayawati chose to stay away from the all-party meet that Congress President Sonia Gandhi had convened in May to discuss the Covid-19 situation.

Also read: Yogi govt scared, undemocratic: Priyanka hits out at UP Congress chief’s continued arrest

Priyanka knows it too

Seen in the context of a future alliance with the BJP, all this makes perfect sense. BSP is trying to halt Congress from making significant inroads in Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Priyanka Gandhi.

And Priyanka Gandhi realises this all too well. Last week, while responding to the Uttar Pradesh government’s notice to her over her comments alleging that two girls were found pregnant at a child shelter home in the state, Priyanka Gandhi asserted she is “Indira Gandhi’s granddaughter” and won’t shy away from speaking the truth against the Yogi government, unlike some “undeclared BJP spokesperson like some of the opposition leaders”. This was a veiled attack on Mayawati.

Priyanka Gandhi’s optics of gender is also playing out well. Till now, Mayawati was the only powerful female leader in Uttar Pradesh setting things straight in a state that’s infamous for its patriarchy. But now, there’s Priyanka Gandhi too, who is not only taking to the streets, going house-to-house to meet people, but is also dodging cops to show her fearlessness while reaching out to the people to gain some brownie points. In December last year, Priyanka gave the Uttar Pradesh police some anxious moments when she met retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri, arrested in Lucknow for his participation in anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests.

Priyanka had in August last year staged a dharna after she was stopped from meeting the Sonbhadra massacre victims. She wears her fierceness and challenges her rivals with aplomb. On being asked if the Yogi government was threatened by her on-ground presence, she had categorically stated that “Everybody’s politics is in danger.” That “everybody” includes Mayawati.

Also read: Its UP chief Ajay Lallu in jail over bus row, but Congress is making little noise about it

Digging up old graves

Mayawati has gone full throttle in calling out Priyanka Gandhi every time she moves a muscle. In January, she accused the latter of shedding “crocodile tears”, saying that she visits every other place in Uttar Pradesh, but has no time to see the situation in Congress-ruled Rajasthan. She was referring to the death of 110 infants at a government hospital in Kota.

In February, Mayawati again attacked Priyanka’s “theatrics” and her visit to the Ravidas temple in Varanasi. She said that the Congress had never honoured Ravidas during its rule in Uttar Pradesh.

The new-found rivalry has continued even during the pandemic. When Priyanka Gandhi offered 1,000 buses to the Uttar Pradesh government to ferry stranded labourers back home, Mayawati was quick to pin the blame of the migrant distress on Congress, saying its previous governments had not developed rural areas of the state, leading to the migration of farmers, dalits and tribals to big cities in search of livelihoods.

It isn’t hard to decode Mayawati’s political messaging when seen in the context of the BJP’s statements, which had also attacked the Congress for its past failures.

This political one-upmanship only led to further pain for stranded labourers when the Uttar Pradesh government refused to use most of the buses offered by the Congress, declaring them unfit for travel. This, while migrants were hiding in crammed trucks and cement mixers to reach home.

The Uttar Pradesh assembly election is another two years away and the political development there is anyone’s guess. But Mayawati’s special attention to Priyanka Gandhi is indicative that Priyanka is doing something right, politically of course.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

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  1. Those. Who siting on power chair wasting time , simply acting as praising team of BJP leaders, becoming sycophants , and trying to grab money , power etc as much as possible from all available sources, is happening in entire country, especially in Up, MP, Gujrat etc,
    Here God itself should come to earth and save our holy country from the burdens caused due to the irresponsible BJP regime, simply putting different slogans, while neighbours r reducing petrol diesel price this leaders are thinking and implementing price rise day by day, a nasty government , total failure in all sectors

  2. Priyanka ia no match to Maya Memsahab. The 3 gandis have an idiotic screen presence. They are Fake. No matter if you put on glasses or sit in front of a rack of books. The 3 idiots are not well read. Even indra was only 10th pass. These 3 are even worse.

  3. Smt Sikandar has discovered something that was elusive to all of us, the non dynasty sycophants, that Smt Vadra has so perfected the art of looking similar to her grandmother, that it is scaring her opponents.

  4. Smt Sikandar has finally done the impossible. She has found something positive about Smt Vadra; her ability to scare people because she has perfected the look of her grandmother, Bharat Ratna Smt Indira Gandhi. PS. Was this an advertorial?

  5. Modi is presently in too unassailable a position to do much in a direct one on one fight with him. In the states though it is a different matter and there the Modi wave isn’t that strong always. The opposition ruled states (where BJP is a significant presence) have followed 2 broad trajectories so far – 1. implacable opposition to BJP so as to position itself a clear alternative and chasing only non-BJP votes (followed by Congress and Mamata) and 2. co-opting the BJP voter to its own votebank to emerge as ruling party (Delhi, Orissa, AP, TN)

    Since it is such a large state, UP has room for more possibilities – it can theoretically allow a mix of 2 strategies – opposition to BJP at all costs and co-opt the BJP voter. Mayawati is trying the latter strategy because the former one is difficult to sustain if one is out of power for too long. Priyanka of course is committed to oppose BJP and hence a target of Mayawati – for who else can Mayawati target? Not Yogi or Modi or Shah if she wishes to get tight with the BJP. Her singular motivation is to gain a number of seats at the expense of both national parties and then negotiate to regain the CM seat come 2022. For her neither the BJP nor the Congress will be off-limits in pursuing this ambition. She is a thorough dyed-in-the-wool politician – it is strictly politics of convenience for her – ideology does not matter an iota.

  6. Rivalry is only in the minds of congrass propagandist. Otherwise why would A princesses be bothered with poverty and divisions is society her FAMILY CREATED. Fake analysis.

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