Behenji vs everyone in poll race
Mayawati at a rally in Allahabad on Thursday. (AP)
Chunar (Mirzapur), Feb. 9: Pyarelal Prajapati, the chief of the BSP in
this ancient town,replete with mythological and historical resonance,
sounded sagely and detached towards his party.
He quoted a Biblical aphorism: "As you sow, so (shall) you reap."
Asked for whom the saying was meant, Prajapati, in a BSP blue
tracksuit, paused and said: "Behenji."
"She has not used her mandate fully. She did for the Dalits what the
Gandhi-Nehrus never did in so many decades. But there are serious
flaws. The fruits of the schemes meant for the Dalits have not been
uniformly distributed. Some Dalits have had to bribe to get houses
under the Kanshi Ram housing project even though it was their rightful
Asked how the palpable disenchantment would impact voters, Prajapati
answered: "The Samajwadi's winning here."
Some 45km away in a village near Varanasi called Ludhangar, Hori Lal,
a retired government employee and a Jatav like Mayawati, appeared
fatalistic. "It's everybody versus Behenji. The rest can't stomach her
pro-Dalit agenda. She's being sacrificed for us. We hope she will rise
again. Otherwise the BSP's mission will regress by 10 years."
Across the Poorvanchal region — from Allahabad eastwards to Varanasi,
Mirzapur, Gorakhpur, Deoria and Salempur — voters are openly speaking
about an "oust Mayawati" campaign being under way.
In the cacophany of voices that work themselves to an anti-Mayawati
crescendo — usually from every caste, forward, backward and
intermediate — there is one in support of the BSP chief. It is the
voice of a BSP cadre member, usually a Jatav, struggling to make a
point that the others are unprepared to take. Despite many of them
admitting they voted the BSP in 2007.
None of Mayawati's detractors can explain cogently the reasons for the
In a marketplace at Tarkuluwan Bazar in Deoria, Ram Pratap, a Jatav,
declared screaming: "History will be kinder to Mayawati than her
fair-weather supporters. She has integrated 22 per cent of the most
oppressed population into the political mainstream. People who were
intimidated by the Rajputs and Jats from voting now walk to the
booths, heads held high."
Abdul Qayoom Khan and Surinder Yadav, Samajwadi backers, cut him
midway. "Enough, you've had your say and your way for five years. Your
Behenji has only worked for Dalits. To the rest of us, she has brought
misery: corruption, petty and big, urea at black market rates, an
unresponsive administration," Yadav said.
The manifest "gang-up" against Mayawati, as her votaries call it, is
translating itself into a surge of support for Samajwadi chief Mulayam
Singh Yadav across the eastern region containing 111 of the 403
If his Yadavs, in an unprecedented display of solidarity, are out to
prove they can equal, if not surpass, Mayawati's Dalit power, in
several places the upper castes, including the Brahmins and the Banias
— the former's allegiance so far veered between the Congress and the
BJP — have rooted for the Samajwadi. They hardly have a choice because
the Congress and the BJP are not seen as strong enough contenders.
"It marks the arrival of a new social coalition of the BYM,
Brahmins-Yadavs-Muslims," said Jai Prakash Rana, the block pramukh of
Buxa Bazar in Jaunpur, near Varanasi. He added: "In 2007, the Brahmins
went to the BSP because of Satish Mishra (who had crafted a new
Brahmin-Dalit axis). Like Dhritirashtra, he has blinded himself to the
realities. The Congress and the BJP are not strong enough options. So
Brahmins are trying out Mulayam this time," Rana said.
Rajneesh Shukla, who teaches comparative philosophy in Varanasi's
Sampooranand University and is counted as a resource person on east
Uttar Pradesh for some of Delhi's best known psephologists, did a
reality check and explained that the so-called BYM axis was post-facto
reasoning by the Brahmins to justify what he said was a "one-election
tactic to choose a lesser evil over a greater one".
Observers recalled the visceral hatred Brahmins had harboured towards
Mulayam in the Ayodhya era and never fully shed their antipathy
despite his outreach endeavours towards the community."The Brahmins
are not a political vote-bank, they are choosy. The Samajwadi has not
given a structure to integrate social groupings like the BSP had. If
there is a Samajwadi candidate with a solid Muslim-Yadav core vote,
and if the Brahmin vote polarises the electorate against Mayawati, he
will win," Shukla said.
To fortify his flanks, Mulayam has evidently left nothing to chance.
The Yadavs, who in the past either rebuffed the Samajwadi's Muslim
candidates out of pro-Hindu feelings or voted caste nominees from
other parties, have been told by community elders that if they were
caught voting a non-Samajwadi person, they would be socially
To end with another vignette from Chunar.
The out-of-work cell, tasked with distributing the monthly
unemployment doles in the Mulayam regime, has reportedly restarted the
apparatus and begun listing applicants. Mayawati had scrapped the
scheme which is now costing her the youth votes.
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