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Mayawati to blend Hindutva with her Dalit politics, plans first Brahmin convention in Ayodhya

Outreach by Mayawati, ahead of 2022 UP polls, is a reminder of her 2007 campaign when Dalit-centric BSP successfully wooed Brahmin voters, a combination that helped party win majority on its own.

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Lucknow: Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati seems to be preparing to jump onto the Hindutva bandwagon, the latest addition to the long list of leaders and parties that have been forced to play the ‘soft Hindutva’ card to counter the BJP.

The BSP chief has announced the launch of a ‘Brahmin Sammelan’ from Ayodhya in the coming week. The venue for the first Brahmin convention is significant, given that the Ram Temple that is under construction is likely to figure prominently in the BJP’s poll campaign.

The BSP, a Dalit-centric party, successfully reached out to Brahmin voters in UP in 2007, a combination that is attributed to the party reaching a majority mark in the assembly for the first time.

On the face of it, Mayawati seems to be trying out the same formula for the 2022 polls, too. But she is also seeking to send out a broader message — her willingness to play the Hindutva card when her other rivals, apart from Yogi Adityanath, of course, such as Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav and Congress’ Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have been visiting temples and seeking the blessings of seers.

“The reason behind starting the Brahmin Sammelan from Ayodhya is that it has its own importance in UP’s politics. From the religious perspective, Ayodhya has connectivity with a larger section of the Hindu population. Sammelans in other religious places like Varanasi, Prayagraj and Mathura are also proposed,” said a senior BSP functionary, who didn’t wish to be named.

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What the conventions will be like

Satish Mishra, the party’s general secretary and in-charge of this drive, and several other party leaders will start this drive with ‘temple darshan’ on 23 July.

The party has planned over two dozen conventions across the state.

At each of these events, the BSP leaders will first go for temple darshan in the respective city and then address the gathering. Local Brahmin organisations, BSP Brahmin workers and several intellectuals of the same caste will be invited.

Opposition’s local leaders and people from other castes can also join in, said a functionary in the party’s Ayodhya unit. Apart from Mishra, senior leaders like Nakul Dubey, Anant Mishra and Lok Sabha MP Ritesh Pandey will also be used, he added.

Change in agenda to counter narrative

Speaking about the party’s ‘Hindu’ turn, a senior BSP leader said it’s “high time” the BSP understands the “local sentiments”.

“Many of our Dalit brothers voted for (PM) Modi on ‘nationalism’ and ‘Hinduism’. We have to counter this narrative. Somehow a section of Jatavs, especially youngsters, are now turned into ‘Hindu voters’ so to keep them with us we have to show them that we agree with their thoughts. We are not different. So these Brahmin Sammelans and religious places connection are correlated,” said the leader.

A Brahmin leader of BSP Ayodhya concurred, saying the party has to float its strategy by “understanding local sentiments”.

“Presence of (CM) Yogi in UP’s politics has also changed the narrative of ‘Hindutva’ politics. For countering this, Akhilesh Yadav is meeting saints, Priyanka Gandhi is going to temples,” said the Brahmin leader.

“We were not into these things so far but we should focus now on our ‘image branding’ also. I don’t think there is anything bad in ‘temple darshan’ drive,” he added.

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Hindutva for gaining attention, say analysts

UP-based political analysts see the move as the party’s efforts for keeping its relevance and to gain attention.

Shilp Shikha Singh, an assistant professor at Lucknow’s Giri Institute of Development Studies, said, “This is some kind of do-or-die election for BSP. So they are trying everything now. Few days back when Mayawati used ‘sarvajan’ in slogan, it indicated that she will try to expand her base by connecting to everyone. Now to woo ‘majority’, she has announced these sammelans. It may bring some more focus on her party if these ‘temple darshans’ gain attention.”

All India Brahmin Mahasabha (R) president Rajendra Nath Tripathi said, “Brahmins are angry with the current regime but it does not mean it will go with BSP as of now. We welcome Behenji’s step of Brahmin Sammelans and her party’s efforts towards ‘soft Hinduism’ but we want someone who can fight for us from sadak to sadan (streets to assembly).”

He added, “We need such a leader. So I think Brahmins will decide their votes after seeing the efforts and promises of all parties. The Brahmin population is more than 12 per cent in the state.”

2007 repeat of Brahmin push?

Mayawati’s Brahmin outreach was considered one of the key factors in her 2007 assembly polls win.

In that election, the BSP gave tickets to 51 Brahmin candidates out of whom 20 won. In 2012, only seven of the party’s 51 Brahmin candidates were elected. Five years later, the BSP gave tickets to 52 Brahmins, of whom only four were successful.

According to party sources, this time BSP is planning to give more tickets to Brahmins than they have given in the last three elections.

A source close to BSP said the party is also planning to organise some more events other than Brahmin conventions to showcase a ‘Pro-Hindutva’ image.

“In 2007, BSP leaders gave the slogan ‘Brahmin shankh bajaega haathi chalta jaega’. May be some more slogans need to be introduced keeping this new strategy in mind,” added the source.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

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