With the SP’s administrative inefficiency in UP and the Modi magic fading at the center, will low-profile Mayawati be the ultimate gainer in UP’s polls in 2017?
BY MEHA MATHUR
As Uttar Pradesh gears up for assembly elections in 2017, one person who is waiting and watching is BSP leader Mayawati. After being defeated in the 2012 UP assembly elections by the Samajwadi Party and standing on the sidelines watching the Modi wave in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Behenji has been lying low and letting her opponents tire themselves out. So be it in the state where chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has failed to administer or at the center where Prime Minister Modi’s magic is fading, Behenji’s strategy is working and she has gained by default.
Starved for choices, UP’s electorate had brought the young and promising Akhilesh Yadav to power in 2012, hoping for clean governance and a departure from the past. But Yadav junior had failed to come up to expectations, so much so that his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, has become his foremost critic. At a meeting in February 2015, Mulayam said: “The ministers are not working. They are harmful to the SP’s future. I would have suspended them from the party if I were the chief minister.”
Even law and order has taken a beating as evident during the Muzaffarnagar riots when the state administration remained ineffective. This was a district which had remained peaceful when other parts of India witnessed riots. UP’s lawlessness was especially evident in Dadri where a Muslim was lynched to death and his family faced mob wrath over allegations of consuming beef. The SP’s whip was largely absent during communal clashes in western UP in the last year or so. Numerous rape cases such as the Badaun rape and murder case didn’t help either.
Rampant corruption was also brought to the fore when journalist Jagendra Chauhan was burnt to death because he allegedly threatened to expose a corrupt UP minister, Ram Murti Verma. Then there was the case of Yadav Singh, engineer-in-chief of Noida Authority, Greater Noida Authority and Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority, who was found to have assets disproportionate to his known source of income. When the Allahabad High Court directed the CBI to investigate the case, the state government approached the SC against the HC directive.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court refused to entertain the government’s plea. Equally damning was the controversy over the appointment of UP’s Lokayukta, in which the state government did not go by rules and extended the term of a serving Lokayukta by breaking all norms. It was a unique case of the highest court of the land coming down heavily on an elected state government over the appointment of a Lokayukta.
The SP’s incompetence could be Mayawati’s gain despite her earlier obsession with mega parks and hoardings when she was in power. Though her party failed to win even a single Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 general elections, she managed to get 18 percent of the Dalit vote.
Also, the weakening of Modi’s magic could work in her favor. A significant number of Dalits had voted for Modi because of his national image and his development plank. But he is no longer seen as infallible. The BJP has suffered electoral losses in Delhi and Bihar, there are challenges to BJP’s authority in his own state, Gujarat, and it has had setbacks in local elections. Modi’s image has been tarnished by the fact that communal issues have taken the lead in the national discourse at the cost of the development agenda.
Meanwhile, Mayawati’s vote bank is coming back to the BSP, their natural home. The impression is gaining ground that during SP’s rule, it was the dominant Yadavs who got prime administrative positions and are to be blamed for atrocities against Dalits. Her party cadres still remember a June 1995 incident where SP men attacked a guesthouse where Mayawati was staying. This sense of injustice among Dalits could well see Mayawati gaining a foothold in future polls. The Dalits also see tangible economic benefits in supporting Mayawati, like housing.
A victory in Uttar Pradesh is important as that could propel the winner to the center. But Mayawati is in no hurry. After the humiliating Lok Sabha defeat, she bided her time and kept her cool. Her strategy is not to open the flanks for smaller gains like local elections as the ultimate target is capturing Delhi. She has made no bones about that and has said in the past that a Dalit should occupy that chair.
If people remember Maya Raj as Sushasan Raj (good governance), it will only help her. She, meanwhile, waits patiently for the electorate to make up its mind.
—With inputs from Prabir Biswas