Dalit trap: The undoing of Maya?
Varghese K George, Hindustan Times
Lucknow, February 14, 2012
"Mayawati's government has been as good or as bad as all governments
have been," Keval Singh says. After some initial
evasion, someone finally declares: "We had voted for BSP in 2007, but
not this time."
It is not unusual for a particular group to switch loyalty between two
elections, but the discontent among Kushwahas with the BSP in Saidpur
is illustrative of a huge tactical disadvantage that incumbent chief
minister Mayawati faces in constituencies reserved for Scheduled
"It was in these constituencies that Mayawati had won the 2007
elections; and now, it is here that her rainbow social coalition is
threatening to unravel," says Rajesh Singh, a political scientist
based in Gorakhpur.
In 2007, it was in SC constituencies that the Brahmin-Dalit core of
Maya's social rainbow played out in its full strength — as no other
party could put up a Brahmin candidate, the community voted in full
strength for the Dalit put up by the BSP. Others gravitated towards
this combination easily and the victory was phenomenal — BSP won 62 of
89 SC seats, nearly one third of its total tally of 206.
As the Brahmins are showing clear signs of abandoning Mayawati, her
toughest battle is in these constituencies — where the candidate is
Dalit but there is no other caste strength to add on to it. The
increased militancy and consolidation among her core voters is
visible— but is evidently not good enough, as her own supporters
admit. "Dalits of all castes would mostly vote for BSP, but all others
will vote against it," says Manish Gautam, an articulate, 18-year-old
Dalit boy, who has been recently recruited by the Indian Air Force.
Until Mayawati's Dalit-Brahmin coalition trumped it in 2007, the
Samajwadi Party had been doing well in SC constituencies — in 2002
assembly election, the SP had 34, while the BSP had only 24. Between
2002 and 2007, the BSP's overall number of seats went up by 100%, but
its SC seats went up by 250%. In 2009 Lok Sabha elections — by when
already the rainbow coalition was weakening — of the total 23 seats
won by the SP, 10 were reserved.
While the SP is hoping such natural factors to play out, the Congress
has started 'Mission-85,' a special drive focusing on reserved seats —
four less than in 2007 — after delimitation of constituencies.
Led by IAS-officer-turned Congress MP BL Punia and young Dalit face
Ashok Tanwar MP, a special task force has been deployed in the SC
constituencies. "Dalit candidates are not well versed with techniques
of electioneering. We are supporting them in that," says Tanwar. "We
will get at least 40 of the reserved seats," claims Punia.
In Saidpur, the consolidation against the BSP seems to be favouring
the SP. The gainers can be different across constituencies; but there
appears to be only one loser.
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