UP: WILL MAYA SHAPE-SHIFT?
The reverses in 2014 and after are past, the BSP supremo is back to dictating terms for poll alliances
She’ll keep them guessing. After publicly warming up to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at H.D. Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in in Karnataka in May, and sacking a senior party leader for using intemperate language against Rahul Gandhi in July, BSP chief Mayawati didn’t mince words in blaming both the BJP and the previous Congress-led regime for rising fuel prices on September 10.
A few days later, she trumped the Congress in Chhattisgarh by striking a deal with ex-chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh for the coming assembly polls. The BSP will contest 35 of the 90 constituencies, but the
parleys were kept secret until the surprise announcement on September 20 in Lucknow.
Banaras Hindu University political scientist Ajit Kumar sees Mayawati’s alliance with Jogi as a political tactic to pressure the Congress into giving the BSP more seats in the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan assembly polls. In bringing Jogi to Lucknow to announce it, he says, the BSP chief has also sent out a message to the Samajwadi Party leadership, which is keen on a common anti-BJP front in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Though a possible deal with the Congress is in the works in MP, BSP state in-charge Ram
Achal Rajbhar has said the party will name candidates for all the 230 seats. Mayawati has also asked party leaders in Rajasthan to explore the possibility of Chhattisgarh-type alliances with other parties, including the CPI.
Former BSP MP Jugal Kishor, now a spokesman for the BJP, says, “Mayawati is just trying to increasing her bargaining power by keeping her options open.” The BSP supremo has publicly declared that her party was open to an alliance with any political party if it was given a respectable share of the seats in 2019. Although it did not win a single seat in 2014, the BSP ended up second in 34 UP constituencies. Insiders say, for the proposed ‘common front’, Mayawati will bargain hard for a “minimum of 50 seats”. Significantly, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has said he was ready for any sacrifice to continue the alliance with the BSP.
In Delhi since vacating her official residence on May 22, a recharged Mayawati returned to her newly constructed mansion on Lucknow’s Mall Avenue on September 15. Quick to see through the ruling BJP’s ploy (divide the Dalit votebank in western UP) in releasing Bhim Sena chief Chandrashekhar from jail, Mayawati summarily rejected his overtures. After his release, Chandrashekhar had described her as his “bua (aunt)” while harking on their “common bloodline” and “caste”.
The BSP chief’s response was blunt: “I have no such bua-bhatija relatives,” she declared. Mayawati knows the rise of another Dalit leader, particularly from her own Jatav community, would weaken her bargaining power with the Congress and SP.
MAYAWATI WILL BARGAIN HARD FOR A MINIMUM OF 50 SEATS IN A COMMON FRONT IN UTTAR PRADESH
HARD BARGAINS Mayawati and Ajit Jogi at the Sept. 20 press meet in Lucknow