Why are BSP and Ms Mayawati important for the future of democracy in India?

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Whatever be the election results in Uttar Pradesh on March 10th, two things will always remain extremely important in Indian Politics as they can rise like a phoenix any time. They are Bahujan Samaj Party and its leader Ms Mayawati.

Many of the experts have written political obituaries of BSP and they feel that Ms Mayawati has become irrelevant. Many call her isolated, safe inside her home and every ‘expert’ in the ‘electoral’ system says that she can’t speak a sentence or two and read her text even in the press conferences. All this happens when we do not know the history of a movement or a person. Even if Ms Mayawati does not do anything, her life will always remain inspiring and we need to understand that.

One can not ignore how BSP became a party to reckon with particularly in Uttar Pradesh. Manywar Kanshiram worked hard, travelled across the country but he succeeded in Uttar Pradesh but could do very little elsewhere. One can not ignore the difference elsewhere and Uttar Pradesh was Ms Mayawati who became a symbol of aspiration and hope for all the candidates.

She was the first candidate fielded by her party in 1984 elections from Kairana but lost. One can understand that Rajiv Gandhi and Congress party swept the election under the massive sympathy wave in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination and it was impossible for an entirely new political party to perform. She lost in two other subsequent elections that she contested Haridwar, 1987, 1991 and Bijnaur in 1985. Coincidentally, the 1985 elections in Bijnaur brought Ram Vilas Paswan too to contest as he had lost his Hazipur constituency and wanted to enter the Parliament but failed miserably. In fact, Congress fielded Mira Kumar against them and both of them lost. Paswan again tried in 1987 from the Haridwar constituency but lost.

The two elections of Bijnaur and Haridwar reflected the politics of big leaders to use Dalits as their own vote bank. If you go to these constituencies today, none will ever remember Mira Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan there. Today, both Bijnaur and Haridwar remain strong bastions of BSP.

One can not ignore the historical role played by BSP in defeating the Hindutva forces in Uttar Pradesh in the aftermath of Babari demolition under Kalyan Singh.  That alliance between the two parties was a historical need and could have built a pan Indian alliance between Bahujan communities but unfortunately, it did not happen.

One may or may not like BSP or Ms Mayawati but none can ignore her strong grip over administration. None can blame her that she benefitted her community when she was the chief minister. Everyone in UP knows that Ms Mayawati has been a firebrand speaker where people would wait to listen to her. She emerged from the Bahujan movement that did not succeed in one day. That was the time when white men were coming in large numbers to join Kanshiram’s movement, there were not many women. It was a tough decision for a young woman to make a decision and remain completely loyal to her commitment.

Yesterday, we saw photographs of several savarana netas eating ‘food’ at the house of the ‘Dalit’ family and tweeting as if they have done a great favour. Ms Mayawati does not need to do so as people know her commitment towards her community. She is the only politician who has not used the Brahmanical idioms and vocabulary to get votes. She remains the tallest in my eyes who did not pretend to go to a ‘temple’, ‘mosque’, ‘gurudwara’ or even a ‘dargah’ for the sake of pleasing the ‘voters’. She has not pretended to ‘celebrate’ all the festivals which netas and film stars have become so habitual of. She is the only leader, who stand up with confidence and without any pretence. She does not need to chant a few bhajans or chaupais of Ramayana to emphasize a point. As a woman, she did not use her woman identity to get votes. We saw her strength when she performed the last rites of late Kanshiram and recently that of her mother.

Politics is changing fast. Youths are now joining it and their aspirations are very high. Ambedkarite youths are now challenging the status quo in the campuses. Good old days have gone when people would wait for hours in political rallies and listen to the songs all night. Now, youths want to use technology and need immediate responses. It took several years for the Congress party to understand the power of social media but when they became active by that time BJP and Hindutva had huge control over it as they spread their narrative. BSP too is lacking heavily on social media. Now, Ambedkarite youths are raising issues and challenging the manustream narrative. A large number of youngsters have started their own youtube channels and all have followers in millions. BSP needs to tap this huge space in the greater interest of the country. It is a Pan India party with a presence everywhere.

There is enormous goodwill for Ms Mayawati everywhere among the Dalits even when there are new young aspiring leaders who have emerged but still it will be difficult for them. It is said that the energy of the aspiring Dalit youngsters is dissipating in other political parties. It is time BSP played the historical role of bringing all the Bahujan forces together and providing a credible challenge. A party like BSP which has a historic Bahujan legacy needs to be protected and encouraged as loss of the political identity of Dalits and I am saying it because elsewhere Dalits will have to be under the patronage of the ‘other’ parties.

On the 66th birthday of Ms Mayawati, apart from good health and success, we wish that the BSP will get strengthened and carry forward the mission that was started by Manywar Kanshiram Saheb. BSP’s core strength lies in Uttar Pradesh and it is important that this should not be diluted. For a stronger democratic India, we need diverse groups and political parties. BSP is a brand that has come after lots of sacrifices and therefore rather than investing in hundreds of self-styled smaller groups, Ambedkarites should strengthen it at least they should avoid creating multiple political groups in Uttar Pradesh which will only hurt BSP. For BSP, it is essential to reach diverse Ambedkarite Bahujan groups and create an all India platform otherwise these young voices will only go elsewhere or make smaller outfits that will not take us anywhere. The duty of bringing all people together rests on the leadership so that people do not get disheartened and stand with the party when needed.  It is important for all to understand that creating an alternative of the Manustream parties is difficult and they should not do anything where the available alternative is weakened. Uttar Pradesh’s election results will ultimately show in which direction the Bahujan politics will move and everything depends on the success or failure of BSP.


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