The most shocking story of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election undoubtedly is the decimation of the BSP. The party which was the front-runner in the polls up until last year managed to win only 19 of the 403 seats on offer with around 22% of the popular vote.
It is a historic low for the BSP since its inception. And this after the seemingly formidable Dalit-Muslim electoral alliance. The reason for this defeat is multifaceted, but one thing clearly stands out is that Mayawati is out of touch with the ground reality. She has not only misread the electorate, but her campaigning was also more distant and lackluster.
It became apparent even more when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was doing roadshows and asking for votes in the by-lanes of Varanasi, which was beamed right into the living rooms across the State. On the other hand, Mayawati locked herself up in her palatial mansion, only to emerge from time to time to read out a bland written speech in an election rally. She was virtually inaccessible to the party cadre apart from one-way phone calls.
In contrast, Modi has emerged as a people's leader, who is amidst them. They can see him up close, wave at him, and he waves back. A general who leads from the front, who gets down to the hectic work of road to road campaigning along with the ordinary party karyakarta. The difference was noticed by the people who felt more connected to Modi than Mayawati.
Once Mayawati was also the same. A passionate leader who travelled village to village, town to town carrying the message of socio-political transformation. But time has changed and so is the electorate. A whole new generation has grown up which hasn't seen the famous 'Behenji' up close. They have only seen her speaking in an uninspiring tone on TV or descending from a helicopter from a distance. They have never listened to her speaking spontaneously from the heart. They feel no organic connection with her. Narendra Modi has increasingly taken that place.
The most common lament one hears from the BSP cadre and supporters is that they can't meet Mayawati or convey their grievances & suggestions to her. There is no direct informal communication between her and the ordinary grass root cadre. This has stifled the flow of information, and she has increasingly come to rely on the news filtered through the close circle which not only jealously guard access to her but has its own little games to play. Cut off from the public and the new thinking going on in the wider Dalit-Bahujan public circles; it seems that her understanding is now shaped by the fashionable alt-left views. She has slowly but unmistakably come to espouse the causes and language of the Azadi junta of the university left, which is hardly more than the campus time-pass.
For instance, Dalit-Muslim Ekta is something which does not exist on the ground and has no historical basis to it. But it is a popular fantasy of the liberal academicians and public intellectuals that a united Dalit-Muslim front would trounce the Hindu BJP. These ivory tower propagandists forget one simple thing, that Dalits are also Hindus and strongly identify themselves with the Hindu causes.
True, social justice is their primary concern, but it is social justice within the Hindu fold that is the aspiration of the most Dalits. They are not willing to fight someone else's utopian wars. Secondly, Dalits hadsuffered greatly at the hand of Islamist aggression under the previous SP government, which had given a free hand to such elements. From land grab to riots to denial of religious freedom in Muslim-majority localities to open caste discrimination, Dalits were at the receiving end of the sharpening communal aggression under SP rule.
But oblivious to this reality and taken for a ride by the echo-chamber of the media, poll pundits, and intellectuals, she all but committed harakiri by aggressively courting Muslims. Had she courted not Muslims but the pasmanda castes among the Muslims, things might have turned out differently, but she has long sacrificed the core agenda of the BSP movement at the altar of easy electoral arithmetic. Unfortunately for her, BJP turned to be a far better player in the game of electoral arithmetic and succeeded not only in mobilizing a larger number of castes and communities but also in breaching her core vote-bank itself.
(The writer is a scholar, teacher and young opinion leader)
(The writer tweets @Abhina_Prakash)
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