THE BSP SPINS ON MUS­LIM-DALIT AXIS

India Today - - COVER STORY - —Ashish Misra

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?

PANKAJ NANGIA/MAIL TO­DAY

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