THE BSP SPINS ON MUSLIM-DALIT AXIS
SThe BSP is hoping the Ansaris’ support base will help them in eastern UP
ix days after her birthday on January 15, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati called a press conference at the party’s state headquarters on Mall Avenue in Lucknow. Here, she introduced Ambika Chaudhari, MLA from Ballia and till recently a minister in the Samajwadi Party government. A week later, on January 29, another ex-minister in the SP government who had been sidelined, Narad Rai, joined the BSP. Both were quickly given party tickets.
This open courting of leaders from other parties is a first for Mayawati. Sources say party general secretaries Satish Misra and Nasimuddin Siddiqui were expressly saddled with the task of identifying “disgruntled elements”. Her plan is to get the Muslim vote on her side. Which explains the rapprochement with jailed don and politician Mukhtar Ansari (whom she had sacked in 2010) and his Qaumi Ekta Dal. The BSP is hoping the Ansaris’ support base gives it an edge in districts like Ghazipur, Mau, Varanasi, Ballia, Chandauli and Azamgarh in eastern UP. Siddiqui, the man behind the alliance, says, “The Ansari brothers have a good reputation among Muslims in the state. It will help the BSP not only in eastern UP but also in Muslim-dominated sections of western UP.”
The BSP has fielded 100 Muslim candidates, half of them in the 140 assembly seats to be polled in the first two phases. Political scientist Dr M.M. Beg says, “The BSP is facing pressure to woo the minority community, as the popular sentiment is that the Muslims are with the Congress-SP.” To counter this, the party has been circulating pamphlets and organising community outreaches to remind Muslim voters about the communal incidents during the SP regime.
The party has also revived the BAMCEF (Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation), an organisation founded by Kanshi Ram even before he launched the BSP. A BAMCEF district president from Kanpur division says they “work in the same manner as the RSS does in helping the BJP”. Workers are involved in monitoring strategy at the grassroots level, and taking feedback from the public back to the local candidate.
Even today, Dalit candidates are restricted mostly to their reserved seats (85 in UP). And among the Dalits, the Jatavs remain Mayawati’s core support base; of the 87 BSP Dalit candidates, 80 per cent are Jatav. Which could cause grief among other Dalit sub-castes. Ashish Sagar, a social activist from Bundelkhand, says, “In Bundelkhand, Dalit subcastes like the Sonkar, Kori, Shankhwar have a significant population. Neglecting them could cost the BSP.” How good is Behenji at math?