The Mayawati-Rahul revolution
Meghnad Desai Posted online: Sunday , Feb 21, 2010 at 0237 hrs
Three years ago, the map of Indian politics looked very different from
what it does now. The UPA was beginning to get into trouble with its
allies over the nuclear deal and in the UP elections, Congress fared
miserably. Rahul Gandhi's foray into electioneering did not work and
the Congress polled a smaller percentage of votes and fewer seats. The
BJP did not do very well either. It had dreams of winning UP with the
Samajwadi Party and then challenging the UPA in the Lok Sabha. Rajnath
Singh failed to charm the UP voters. Mayawati emerged triumphant and
showed that her blend of Dalit/Brahmin politics may yet show the way
out of Mandal. At the same time she devalued the mandir issue because
no one seemed to care about it.
Three years on, we have a different situation. Mayawati failed to cash
in on her UP success in the 2009 elections. Her dreams of being PM at
the head of a Third Coalition bit the dust. Her grandiloquent bonanza
of statues also met a check from the courts. Rahul Gandhi did not pay
heed to the chamchas who praised his 2007 UP election efforts and got
his head down and worked away, meeting the many Kalawatis in rural UP.
It paid off and the Congress got 20-odd seats.
The combination of Mayawati's triumph in 2007 and the UPA's in 2009
put several markers down in Indian politics. The BJP realised that
electoral success depends on following the trends set by the two
elections which they lost. Their narrow sectarian emphasis on Hindutva
and the temple issue, the Varun Gandhi issue, were counter-productive
and the nation drifted away from them.
The reality is that the Dalit vote cannot be ignored by any party nor
can it be taken for granted. It has to be fought for not by an
ideology which isolates them into ghettoes but by delivery of better
outcomes. This is because Dalits are just the same as all other Indian
citizens—they are aspirational and eager to have obstacles removed
from their paths. Mayawati proved how important the Dalit vote was and
Rahul Gandhi succeeded in getting the Dalit vote out of the clutches
of the BSP.
This, more than anything, explains what Nitin Gadkari is doing in
Indore. He went to Mhow, the birthplace of Babasaheb Ambedkar. In
doing this, he repeated the gesture he made of garlanding the Ambedkar
statue on his return to Nagpur after being crowned the head of the
BJP. He, too, has learnt the lesson. Dalits are Indians and they cast
their votes at election time. There is no way an exclusive upper caste
vote would get BJP into power even if they did agree with the BJP
about mandir/masjid issue and, of course, they don't agree.
The BJP has also understood that the exclusionary politics of the Shiv
Sena is poison. This is why, in the Shah Rukh Khan and My Name is Khan
episode, it stayed away from the Sena. It is clear that Indians do not
take to these divisive ideas anymore. Indians know and like Shah Rukh
Khan, as they like Sachin Tendulkar.
But the greatest miracle was that even the Congress in Maharashtra got
Rahul's message—stop the Shiv Sena from getting publicity and enjoy
immunity from the law just because it can make mayhem. The first right
of every Indian is to have protection from the agencies of law and
order. Every Indian has a right to go about his or her life as he or
she pleases, as long as they abide by the law. The Sena was defeated.
There is no gain in labelling voters as Marathi Manoos since they are
Indians as much as the Dalits are.
The best of the week was Gadkari's 'offer' that the BJP will help
build a mosque if the Muslims let them build the mandir. Good idea.
Why not build a multi-faith complex on the single site and celebrate
inclusive India? Let the Ramjanmabhoomi be put to some good use. Maybe
the Congress should promise that in its UP election manifesto.
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