Can Mayawati Woo Uttar Pradesh Back With the Brahmin Card?
The BSP supremo, deserted by Dalits and ignored by Brahmins, is perhaps trying to pull off the 2007 feat again
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati’s overt attempt to woo Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls next year, appears to be a desperate bid to turn back the clock. The Dalit leader is seeking to recreate the political ambience of the 2007 state elections wherein a series of Brahmin bhaichara (brotherhood) meetings across Uttar Pradesh before the polls helped her forge an unlikely alliance between the top layer of the caste hierarchy and its lowest, scoring a spectacular electoral victory. ‘Behenji’s’ closest aide, Satish Chandra Mishra, a Brahmin, who one-and-a-half decades ago was the chief architect of this political move, is once again her main strategist today.
The BSP, whose electoral fortunes have nosedived over the past decade, has stepped up in recent months its efforts to play the Brahmin card by holding a series of ‘Prabuddh Sammelans’, which means enlightened rallies, a latter-day version of the old Brahmin bhaichara meetings. Spearheaded by Satish Mishra along with his son Kapil and son-in-law Paresh, these Sammelans have specifically targeted the Brahmin community, which is estimated to comprise nearly 12 per cent of the Uttar Pradesh electorate.
15 Years Ago, The Equations Were Different
The latest and most publicised of these Sammelans was held today in the state capital Lucknow, with Mayawati herself holding forth on the importance of Brahmin issues, particularly the question of their security, in what she described as anarchy and chaos under the current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) administration. She specifically mentioned the case of the recent arrest by the Uttar Pradesh police of Khushi Dubey, the 17-year-old wife of slain gangster Amar Dubey, and said that her party had decided to carry on a legal battle against the refusal of the authorities to give her bail despite being a juvenile. BSP sources said that today’s meeting was significant because it was the largest public event addressed by Behenji for quite some time and was seen as a launch of the party’s campaign for next year’s election.
However, there are several reasons why playing the Brahmin card may not be as successful today as it was 15 years ago, when north India was still in post-Mandal turmoil, and upper castes, particularly the Brahmins, were threatened by the political assertion of backward castes.
Deserted by All Today
Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh had turned to Mayawati, seen as a rising political star with massive backing from Dalits and lower castes, to stop the rising clout of the muscular Yadav clan under the leadership of the wily Mulayam Singh, who was perceived as a bigger threat. Significantly, even before her famous 2007 victory with a clear majority in the state Assembly, the BJP Brahmin leadership, along with tacit support from the Congress, had propped her up to lead a series of minority governments in Uttar Pradesh mainly to counter Mulayam Singh Yadav and his Samajwadi Party.
The situation is vastly different today, with both Mayawati and her party a pale shadow of the stature they were before.
Much of Behenji’s following among non-Jatav Dalits and other lower castes have dwindled, and even the younger sections of her core Jatav base are leaning towards more radical and dynamic leaders like Chandrashekhar Azad and his Bhim Army.
Mayawati’s support among Muslims, which had grown with her open overture to them during the last Uttar Pradesh polls five years ago, has also considerably shrunk, with a widespread perception in the minority community that she has sold out to the Modi government. The fact that the first of the Prabuddh Sammelans was launched by Satish Mishra in Ayodhya after praying to the shrine of Ram Lalla has been the last straw.
A Secret Deal Between Mayawati and BJP?
“Mayawati does not look like a winner today!” declared a veteran Brahmin political analyst in Lucknow. “So, although a section of the Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh want to teach the BJP a lesson after Yogi Adityanath has openly favoured the Thakurs and betrayed the core Brahmin base of the party, they are unlikely to lean towards Mayawati as Akhilesh Yadav and his Samajwadi Party might stand a better chance in defeating the BJP,” he added.
On the other hand, a prominent Dalit activist in Uttar Pradesh felt that the growing disenchantment among Dalits with Behenji is likely to grow even deeper with the Satish Mishra-led Prabuddh Sammelans. “Many Dalits feel that Mishra has misled Behenji into straying from the core Dalit ideology of the BSP formed by Kanshi Ram,” he said.
Significantly, both the Brahmin analyst and Dalit activist felt that it was quite possible that there was a secret deal between Mayawati and the BJP for the 2022 Uttar Pradesh election.
(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist and the author of ‘Behenji: A Political Biography of Mayawati’. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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