Tuesday, March 23, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Elephant no longer on sound footing?



Elephant no longer on sound footing?
Ashish Tripathi, TNN, Mar 23, 2010, 03.48am IST

LUCKNOW: The Bhaujan Samaj Party started its journey on April 14,
1984, with the objective to bring Dalits, backwards and Muslims under
one political umbrella and provide an alternative to the Congress. It
was successful in this endeavour upto some extent. But 25 years later,
a resurgent Congress threatens to make dent in BSP's political
fortunes. The way BSP supremo Mayawati targeted the Congress in her
March 15 maharally speech, followed by her defiant stand on the
money-mala controversy, perhaps indicate her fear of losing the core
Dalit base to the Congress.

What has added to Maya's fear is Congress' proposed Rath Yatras from
April 14, the birth anniversary of Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar, whose
ideology the BSP claims to follow. Led by Congress heir-apparent Rahul
Gandhi, these yatras will particularly focus on Dalits. In response,
Maya has drawn her own `battle plan'. Besides demonstrations on March
25 to expose Opposition `conspiracy' to sabotage her maharally,
Mayawati has planned countrywide protests on April 14 against the
Women's Reservation Bill -- brought by the Congress-led UPA government
-- followed by protests in May against the price hike.

The bugle was blown in March 15 maharally itself where most of her
speech was devoted to Congress bashing. She accused the Congress of
betraying Ambedkar and pointed out how Dalits have remained
marginalised in over 60 years of Congress rule in the country. She
described Congress' `Dalit Prem' a drama.

Cornered on the money-mala controversy, the BSP took the Opposition
head-on and tried to generate sympathy for Maya by saying that "No one
objects when Opposition leaders are felicitated with costly items but
all are crying foul when a `Dalit ki beti' has been honoured."

The maharally was organised to mark 76th birth anniversary of BSP
founder late Kanshi Ram. It also kicked off party's 25 years
celebrations and was described as a "Dalit maha-kumbh" by BSP leaders.
The huge Dalit memorials built by Maya were thrown open for party
supporters on that day. The party has also decided to arrange visit of
at least 1000 Dalits every week from various districts to these
memorials for their "psychological empowerment". Further, the party
has started a campaign to publicise the works done by the BSP
government for the upliftment of Dalits.

So, what has forced Maya to desperately reiterate her commitment for
Dalits? She was worried when Rahul started visiting Dalit homes before
2009 Lok Sabha polls, but that worry turned into fear when the
Congress bagged 21 seats in UP, splitting BSP's Dalit votes at many
places. Clearly, it was revival for the Congress which had won only
nine seats in 2004 Lok Sabha polls and 22 seats in 2007 UP assembly
elections. Buoyed by the results, as Congress started an aggressive
campaign to win back the Dalits, BSP began to press the panic buttons.

No wonder that Maya has declared Congress as BSP's enemy number one.
The fight is not only for UP but other states as well -- like Madhya
Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan -- where BSP is gradually gaining
strength. To keep here political fortunes afloat, Maya needs to keep
her Dalit vote bank intact, particularly after 2009 Lok Sabha polls in
which BSP won only 20 seats in UP, despite getting a higher vote share
than other parties. There's another worry. The Brahmin card which
brought Maya to power in 2007, failed in 2009 and she had to face
criticism for alleged dilution of BSP's `bahujan' ideology propagated
by Kanshi Ram.

Under Kanshi Ram, BSP struggled till 1988 when he stunned everyone by
securing 19% votes in Allahabad byelections against stalwarts like
Congress's Sunil Shastri and former prime minister VP Singh. In 1989,
the BSP opened its account in Lok Sabha polls by winning three seats.
Since then, it grew stronger with every election. In 1993, BSP-SP
fought the UP assembly elections together and won 176 seats (SP 109
and BSP 67). But, Maya withdrew support from the then SP government
and became the first woman Dalit chief minister of India in June 1995
with BJP support.

With BJP's support, Mayawati again became the chief minister in 1997
and 2000. Kanshi Ram declared Maya his political successor in 2001.
Kanshi Ram wanted to unite Bahujan (Dalits, backward and Muslims)
against a brahmincal society but Maya adopted the Sarvjan approach.
She added brahmins to her vote bank and won 2007 assembly polls with
Brahmin-Dalit-Muslim combination. The same caste equation had kept
Congress in power for over four decades in UP. Now, Congress is eyeing
to capture UP in 2012 assembly polls. But Maya will not give up
easily. The battle lines are drawn and the state is in for an
interesting contest.

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