The re­verses in 2014 and after are past, the BSP supremo is back to dic­tat­ing terms for poll al­liances

India Today - - STATES - By Ashish Misra

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.


HARD BARGAINS Mayawati and Ajit Jogi at the Sept. 20 press meet in Luc­know

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