The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) may be putting up a false sense of bravado, but insiders claim that the party is knee deep in trouble in Uttar Pradesh.
Despite its best efforts, the core vote bank of the party shows no signs of returning to its parent fold and wants to experiment with other parties, mainly the BJP. This fear of losing Dalit support made the BSP almost opt out of the elections to the Legislative Council through local bodies. The party could not muster the courage to contest more than eight of the 36 seats. BSP president Mayawati is aware that her continuing “political honeymoon” with Brahmins has made the Dalits slip away from her hands. This made Mayawati issue instructions to all party workers this week that no leader, other than Dalits, should participate in the Ravidas Jayanti in Varanasi. A handful of Dalit leaders, led by Swami Prasad Maurya, were “allowed” to visit the Ravidas temple in Varanasi on the day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi also visited the temple at Shir Govardhan.
When questioned by the local media, Maurya explained Mayawati’s absence by saying that she faced a security threat and had been advised to stay away.
“Mayawati has sensed the damage that she has done to the party by giving importance to Brahmins in the regime (2007-2012) and the new slogan among Dalits is ‘Vote hamara, note tumhara (read Brahmin), nahin chalega, nahin chalega’. She is now making a conscious effort to keep Brahmins in the party away from the public eye and this is why leaders like Satish Chandra Mishra are being kept in the background,” said a BSP MLA. A party functionary also admitted that though the importance of Mishra in the party has remained unchanged, he was keeping a low profile. Explaining the situation, Gajendra Rajan, a Dalit journalist in Sonebhadra, said, “The BSP has been using Dalit votes to remain in power, but has not allowed a single Dalit leader to emerge from the ranks. Dalit youths make a formidable force now and the BSP government has done nothing for them. When BJP launched its campaign for the Lok Sabha elections last year and Narendra Modi addressed Dalit youths directly, they went with the BJP. I feel that Dalits will continue to remain with the BJP in the 2017 UP Assembly elections because the BSP has given them no reason to return. Moreover, Dalits seem to have found an option in the BJP which is no longer driven by upper castes.”
A former BSP minister who is no longer with the party also said that Mayawati was being steered by wrong advisors. “She thinks she can lord over the entire community by sitting in her ivory tower. She cannot read the writing on the wall because people close to her keep it hidden. She never reaches out to Dalit families that are in distress. The BSP remained the custodian of Dalit votes because there was no option, but now that the BJP has presented an option, the BSP stands a loser,” he explained.
While Dalits continue to maintain a distance from the BSP, Brahmins are also in no mood to support the BSP. As a Brahmin leader, recently expelled from the BSP, said, “A Brahmin in BSP is restricted to one person, one family which is Satish Chandra Mishra and his family. Other Brahmin leaders are insulted and humiliated on every issue. If one family means one community, the BSP can remain with the family.”