Wednesday, February 1, 2012

[ZESTCaste] Will Mayawati's magic work in 2012? Pundits doubtful

Will Mayawati's magic work in 2012? Pundits doubtful
IANS Jan 31, 2012, 12.31PM IST

NEW DELHI: Her rock solid Dalit support may still be intact. But with
charges of corruption and poor governance enveloping her, Chief
Minister Mayawati may find the going tough in Uttar Pradesh, say
political activists and pundits.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is determined to retain power it bagged
in the country's most populous state five years ago on its own,
stunning foes and friends alike. It will be no bed of roses this time,

For starters, there is disenchantment, widely referred to as
anti-incumbency. Mayawati and government are battling corruption
allegations too. Even admirers say she seems to have withdrawn from
the people she claims to represent.

Then there is the opposition factor. The Samajwadi Party is charged
up, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is determined to regain the
support base it has lost while the Congress wants to make a
spectacular comeback.

"She may not win a majority this time," political analyst N. Bhaskara
Rao told IANS, referring to Mayawati, the four-time chief minister of
Uttar Pradesh.

According to him, neglect of the basic "bijli-sadak-pani"
(electricity, road, water) issues cast doubts on her ability to win an
outright majority from the staggered seven-phase election starting Feb

Rao admits that Mayawati's decision to deny tickets to a third of her
legislators and sacking of 16 ministers over corruption charges shows
she has strong decision-making capabilities.

But the 2007 magic -- "social engineering" -- has more or less broken
down. Compared to five years ago, Brahmins and other upper castes
don't seem to be backing her that enthusiastically.

Badri Narayan, an expert on Dalit issues with the Allahabad-based
Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Social Sciences, says that Mayawati's
popularity was declining.

"Her Dalit vote bank is intact but sections of Muslims, Brahmins and
Kurmis are shifting towards the Congress," Narayan told IANS.

In his view, though Mayawati has an image of an iron lady, the
distance between her and her party workers has increased over the past
five years.

"As a person she is good, understands rural society, and has
politically proved herself many times. But her exclusivity is going
against her," said Narayan.

After her political baptism in 1977 by BSP founder Kanshiram, school
teacher Mayawati had a meteoric rise in the party. She was made his
heir in 2001 and became the party chief two years later.

In 1995, Mayawati created history by becoming India's first Dalit
woman chief minister in Uttar Pradesh.

It was a short stint. She returned to power in March 1997 for another
brief stint, and again was chief minister May to August 2002. She
finally became chief minister on her own right in May 2007.

But even as her ambitions soared, the 2009 Lok Sabha election
checkmated her. The BSP won just 19 seats, far below the 40 it hoped
to capture. That was in part due to a Congress comeback, thanks to
Ranul Gandhi.

Today too, Rahul Gandhi is going hammer and tongs against Mayawati.

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