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Mayawati is sparing no one, not former ally SP or BJP. Come 2022, she wants BSP as ‘the’ choice

Mayawati has been hitting out at BJP and SP this past week, making it clear BSP will go it alone in next year's UP polls. The election is her chance to prove she's still politically relevant.

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Lucknow: Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, lying low since the 2019 Lok Sabha election, appears to be shifting gears about eight months before the next assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.

Accused by her political adversaries of going soft on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and training her guns at the Congress, which is politically inconsequential in the state, Mayawati changed her strategy last week, attacking the saffron party and also the Samajwadi Party (SP), her alliance partner in the Lok Sabha election.

While she dug into the “helpless” SP Friday, claiming it was “forced to ally with small parties”, a day earlier, she attacked BJP, saying the educated youth were being “forced to sell pakoras” under their government.

Several BSP functionaries told ThePrint that the change in tactics is part of the party’s strategy to project Mayawati as a strong contender in the upcoming assembly polls. Senior leaders have also been told to get more vocal against the SP and BJP in public meetings. “We will get to see more such attacks on both the parties as she (Mayawati) is trying to put herself as a strong solo option for UP,” a functionary said.

Political experts say this next election will determine Mayawati’s political relevance in Uttar Pradesh. To that end, her coming out strongly against the other parties is an attempt at proving she’s still a force to reckon with in the currently BJP-ruled state.

Also read: 11 MLAs expelled, 4 UP chiefs in 3 years — why Mayawati’s BSP appears to be imploding

‘Anti-Dalit’ Samajwadi Party

In a series of tweets shared Friday morning, Mayawati took on her former alliance partner, the Akhilesh Yadav-run Samajwadi Party, claiming major parties have avoided partnering with it due to their “anti-Dalit” stance.

“Due to its very selfish, narrow and especially anti-Dalit thinking and working style, all prominent and major parties avoid it (SP). This is well known,” read one of the tweets that was posted in Hindi.

“That is why in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly election, this party will not fight with any major party but only with the help of an alliance with smaller parties. If saying this is not the helplessness of SP, then what is it,” she further said.

According to a BSP leader, this is the party’s way of showing it’s the only option against the BJP.

“For contesting elections in a stronger way, we have to be more vocal on SP and prove ourselves as a principal opponent. This is what behen ji (Mayawati) is doing. We have to tell our voters that SP is not relevant. We are the only ones who can contest against the BJP, but we have to change strategy,” the BSP leader said.

Another senior BSP leader added, “We have to prove ourselves as the main opponent to the BJP in UP. For this, one needs to be more vocal on the ruling government. That’s what we are focussing on.”

Also read: ‘Khela Hoi’: SP’s UP poll prep is all about songs & slogans — some original, some ‘inspired’

Upping the ante against BJP

Not just the SP, but Mayawati has been targeting the BJP in her tweets as well. In just a week, she attacked the ruling party thrice on a host of governance issues.

“Lakhs of educated, unemployed youths have been forced to sell pakoras on the roadside or become labourers across UP, and the country, to make ends meet. I can understand the agony families are going through. This is extremely worrying and unfortunate,” she posted in Hindi Thursday.

If BJP follows in the Congress’ footsteps, it will face the same fate as the party, she went on to say. “BJP should think about this seriously as both public welfare and self-reliance are not possible under its current policies and actions,” she added.

Earlier in the week, Mayawati Tuesday attacked the Yogi Adityanath government over the construction of the Ambedkar cultural centre in Lucknow, calling it natakbaazi. The UP cabinet had approved a proposal of the state cultural department to construct the centre where a 25-feet-high statue of Ambedkar is also to be built.

In another tweet, she accused the BJP of using the state machinery to ensure it wins the zila panchayat chairman polls that were underway Saturday. Likening these ‘tactics’ to the ways of the previous SP government, she explained it was why no BSP candidate was taking part in the polls.

Mayawati’s attacks, though, are in contrast to her earlier statements. In October 2020, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi shared a video of the BSP chief stating that to ensure the defeat of SP candidates in future elections, her party would side with BJP or any other party’s candidate.

“Now is there anything more to be said?” Gandhi posted along with the video, in an apparent dig at Mayawati.

Also read: UP, MP, Goa, Uttarakhand — BJP’s command-and-control is malfunctioning

A new campaign

According to Dr Shilpa Sikha Singh, a UP-based political analyst and assistant professor at Lucknow’s Giri Institute of Development Studies, says the upcoming election is Mayawati’s opportunity to prove she’s still relevant in UP politics.

“This is a career deciding election for Mayawati. I am expecting she will be seen more vocal on her political opponents now as the elections come closer. That’s why there is some sort of change in her strategy that is being noticed,” said Singh.

Mayawati’s core support has been the Dalits, who make up about 20 per cent of the vote bank in UP. However, Singh notes that the BJP has managed to dent Mayawati’s hold in some districts with their “non-Jatavs” Dalit supporter, while a significant portion of the minorities support the Samajwadi Party.

To show an equal focus on all castes in the state, Mayawati’s new slogan says: “UP ko bachana hai, bachana hai. Sarvajan ko bachana hai, bachana hai, BSP ko satta mein lana hai va zaroor lana hai (We have to save UP. We have to save all sections of society. Bring BSP to power)”.

Professor Kaviraj at Lucknow University who specialises in the Dalit politics in the state, said, “Mayawati’s new slogan have several interesting points. By using ‘UP ko bachchana hai’, she indicates all other parties are damaging the state. That’s why she is more vocal on SP, BJP and Congress now.” He added that Mayawati knows that to “pose as a main opponent, she has to get more vocal on the Yogi government”, which explains her attacks on BJP.

Singh added that when you look at the basics of Mayawati’s slogan, the message is simple — ‘sabka sath’ (in support of everyone). “In political terms, she is now focussing on every caste and religion. She doesn’t want to be only a leader of Dalits,” Singh said.

Also read: The Mayawati era is over. Bye Bye Behenji

No alliances, party works on ‘sarvajan’ slogan 

In line with the BSP’s poll agenda, Mayawati made clear that her party will not partner with Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM in Uttar Pradesh. She also said the party will fight the Uttarakhand election on its own.

Following the Bihar election last year, there had been some speculation of an alliance between BSP and AIMIM for the UP election.

To that end, the party is focussing on “circulating the new slogan, behen ji‘s branding and going vocal on BJP both in public meetings and social media,” said another BSP functionary.

“After the Bihar election, there were talks about BSP’s alliance with Owaisi’s AIMIM for UP polls as both parties contested under a grand alliance with RLSP. But Mayawati did not agree. She was already facing allegations of having a soft corner towards BJP on various fronts, and Owaisi was also facing similar allegations of helping BJP, so behen ji wanted to come out of this,” said a source in the BSP.

BSP’s National Spokesperson Sudhindra Bhaduaria explained: “One section of media continuously writes that BSP may have an alliance with AIMIM, but now after behen ji‘s statement, it is clear that nothing is going to happen. It’s only the media’s narrative. No meeting has even happened regarding this.”

He pointed out the party had contested the last three assembly polls alone, and intended to “continue with this strategy”.

“We do not want to go with Owaisi. We already have many minority leaders. In fact, we have leaders of every caste, be them Dalits, OBCs, Brahmins, etc. We do not need any party’s support. We will contest solo. We have no soft corner, not for BJP nor SP nor Congress.”

A senior functionary said the party is also planning to start small meetings with caste leaders in several districts. “In the coming days, we will try to invite every section of society in our public meetings. We have an OBC state president and several other OBC leaders. We have Satish Mishra, Ritesh Pandey, etc, to woo Brahmins. In this way, we will make a pool of leaders who will work on promoting the party’s ideology across castes. Only then can we fulfil our ‘sarvajan’ slogan.”

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: This is why Mayawati wants to fight solo, says no more poll alliances


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