An incident like this is almost unheard of in Indian politics. Within a matter of few hours, the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh regained a vote bank and also lost one.
An apparently derogatory statement made by a BJP leader, Dayashankar Singh, with reference to Mayawati, turned the fortunes for the BSP almost overnight.
As soon as the video clip of the statement went viral, Rajya Sabha erupted into noisy scenes and BSP workers from across the state were asked to rush to Lucknow to fight for Behenji’s (as Mayawati is known in her party) honour.
Hours later, thousands of BSP workers jammed the roads in Lucknow and burnt effigies of Singh who was promptly expelled by BJP.
After months of facing desertions, the BSP managed to get its voters together to fight for Dalit pride. Political analysts, who find their way to TV debates, claimed that the BSP had managed to regain its lost ground among Dalits and was back in the reckoning.
However, what happened during the protests, has dealt a major blow to the party’s scheme of returning to power in Uttar Pradesh. Overzealous party workers did exactly what Dayashankar Singh had done—in fact, even worse.
The motley group of leaders targeted the female members of Dayashankar Singh’s family. Mock funerals of the accused leader were taken out and choicest expletives were hurled at him. Posters and banners used in the demonstration termed him a kutta (dog) and the slogans chanted by party workers put all political decency to shame. As the demonstrations gained momentum, so did the anger in the passersby who felt that by personally attacking the BJP leader and his family, the BSP was doing exactly what he had done.
Within hours, the upper caste anger against the BSP was palpable and little known caste outfits — the Kshatriya Mahasabha, Savarn Samaj Party, Kshatriya Yuva Samaj — came up with press releases demanding that all Thakur candidates should return their tickets to the BSP and oppose the party with all their might. Brahmins, known to be socially opposed to Thakurs, also joined in.
“This is no longer a question of caste. It is a matter of self respect. Just because someone said something, does not mean that you should go around targeting his wife, his daughter and his sister. We approve of action against the accused leader, but why his family? The BSP had traditionally been targeting upper castes but in recent years, the party changed its tune and we believed when they said that they believed in being broad based. Today, they have proved that a tiger can never change his stripes,” said P.K. Pandey, head of the Uttar Pradesh Brahmin Sabha.
The Thakurs were equally upset and the general secretary of the Kshatriya Yuva Samaj, Kunwar Ramvir Singh said that they would convince all Thakur candidates to return their tickets and also ask the community not to vote for the BSP.
Incidentally, BSP leaders in Lucknow said on camera that Dayashankar Singh had made derogatory remarks against Mayawati because he was a Thakur by caste.