Breaking Views: The Message in Mayawati’s Move to Fire BSP V-P
Camera: Athar Rather
Video Editor : Vivek Gupta, Vishal Kumar
The BSP has removed Jai Prakash Singh from his post of party vice-president and national coordinator after it was found that the leader made “derogatory” comments about Opposition leaders. Singh was accused of saying that Rahul Gandhi cannot become the prime minister due to “his mother’s foreign origin”.
“I have found out about the speech given by national vice-president Jai Prakash Singh and I have come to conclusion that he spoke against the spirit of the party and made personal remarks against leaders of an Opposition party. Today, I have stripped him from his newly-appointed post with immediate effect,” BSP chief Mayawati had said, while announcing Singh’s ouster.
She cited Singh’s example to advice her party cadre to refrain from raking up controversies. Until the alliance between Opposition parties is finalised, only the senior party leaders should give statements, she instructed.
The speed with which Mayawati nipped this crisis in the bud shows that leaders of Opposition parties are working to tackle the BJP’s ‘Modi vs Who’ strategy. In the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the ruling party is expected to up the ante on this question in a bid to woo voters away from a united Opposition, by painting the unity as a farcical one that is incapable of leading the country as it lacks a deserving prime ministerial candidate.
There is another aspect to Mayawati’s actions. The BSP is eyeing a healthy seat share in the upcoming elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where it feels it has a strong presence. In Madhya Pradesh, the party rakes in around 6-7 percent of the votes, concentrated in Gwalior, Bhind, Guna and Morena.
But in order to expand its hold in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the party needs the Congress to allot it better seats.
Mayawati knows exactly how much to demand from the Congress as well as what to expect in return – considering the SP-BSP front in UP towers over the Rahul Gandhi-led party in the state. Despite its flailing voter base in UP, the Congress is still a significant player in the state and the SP and BSP are keen to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with it.
Oppn Wary of Falling Into The ‘Modi vs Who’ Trap
All Opposition leaders seem to be on the same page when it comes to engaging with the BJP on this matter – they are wary of falling into this purported trap as they understand that only the BJP stands to gain from the ‘Modi vs Who’ question.
Let’s take a close look at how two opposition politicians are playing this game. First, Rahul Gandhi, who seems to be giving politicians from other parties the space they need in order to establish their primacy. The leaders, in turn, seem to be reciprocating his efforts.
The other politican to watch out for is Sharad Pawar, the most experienced leader of this united Opposition. The veteran leader has already announced an alliance with the Congress in Maharashtra.
Rahul’s claim to the prime minister’s seat will be established only if the Congress manages to bag around 150 seats. But should the party fail to do so, then two other contenders emerge – Sharad Pawar and Mayawati. Other names could also emerge. The BJP knows about this chink in the Opposition's armour, which is why they continue to harp on the 'Modi vs Who' question.
But I think this question is a trap. The BJP alone stands to gain from trying to paint this irrelevant question as being a relevant one. Since the Opposition is aware of this trap, it will be careful to avoid it and will continue to reiterate that whoever wins the highest number of seats will become prime minister.
In this context, Mayawati’s move to oust Jai Prakash Singh from her party over his comments about the Congress gains significance. She could have settled for a stern warning, but she chose to call a press conference in the morning and sack him instead – effectively making the ‘Modi vs Who’ question redundant.
In the days to come, we’re bound to see the Opposition employ different tactics to stop the BJP’s ‘Modi vs Who’ strategy in its tracks.