BSP president Mayawati has decided to cut out on extravagance and return to her political roots. Her 57th birthday celebrations in Lucknow and Delhi on 15 January were an example of this. With the approaching Lok Sabha elections, Mayawati, has realised the need for keeping the Dalit vote bank intact. Her alienation from this core vote bank had led to her party’s defeat in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections last year.

“Mayawati has directed party workers to reach out to the poor in the coming days. We have been asked to hold meetings in areas where the population comprises the poorest of the poor and economically weak Dalits. She feels that it is time we reached out to the common people who are being completely ignored by the SP government. BSP MLAs and MPs have been asked to arrange for bonfires for the poor because the government has not taken any steps to help them counter the intense cold wave,” said a senior BSP functionary. She has asked party workers that instead of collecting funds for the party, they should offer blankets to the homeless, food to the hungry and medicines and fruits to the ailing.

Mayawati, according to sources close to her, is somewhat disillusioned with “upper castes who tend to switch loyalties in every election and are not dependable.” It was with this in mind that she aggressively pursued the bill for quota in promotions, knowing fully well that her move could jeopardize her social engineering formula, added the source.

“The BSP president is aware she will earn the ire of upper castes if she favors quota in the promotion bill but she is ready for the gamble. If the Dalit vote bank of the party gets firmly consolidated, we will have no problem winning back upper castes. It is something like this: if you have money for minimum guarantee, any bank will give you loan,” explained a former BSP minister.

“The lavish birthday celebrations in previous years were designed to give a sense of empowerment to the Dalits who revelled in the fact that their behen had reached a position that many envy. Now that we have delivered this sense of empowerment to Dalits, it is time to go back to the poor and work for their welfare. The psychological battle has been won and we need to focus on other aspects of deprivation,” the former minister added.

Being the shrewd politician that she is, Mayawati has directed party leaders to prepare audio CDs of folk songs that highlight the work done for Dalits by her government and also highlight the failure of Samajwadi Party government in UP and the UPA government at the centre. These CDs will be distributed among the people and played at community functions.

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