LESS THAN a month after the BSP was reduced to 19 seats in the assembly elections, the first signs of revolt are emerging from within the party against the leadership of Mayawati. Unconvinced by the party chief’s allegation that faulty electronic voting machines led to the poor performance, many functionaries have begun to ask why no responsibility has been fixed for the result and why the organisation is yet to make a single change.
With three successive defeats in 2012, 2014 and 2017, several BSP old-timers have also questioned Mayawati’s decision to abandon the Bahujan formula, which focused on Dalits, OBCs and Muslims, for the Sarvajan tag to attract upper castes, especially Brahmins. Many of them said that Mayawati has “completely ignored” the OBC groups that were associated with the party for long. The widening faultlines are now visible on the ground.
When Mayawati visited the Kanshi Ram Smarak Sthal, the memorial built for the BSP founder Kanshi Ram, in Lucknow on March 15 for his birth anniversary, there were only a few dozen people present, including leaders who had come to attend her meeting the same day. Party insiders said the crowd was among the smallest at any of Mayawati’s functions since she became BSP president.
Besides, former minister and a Dalit leader of the party, Kamla Kant Gautam, has announced a public meeting in Lucknow on April 13, on the eve of B R Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, to launch a new outfit to serve the Bahujan Samaj “abandoned” by Mayawati. Several party workers have also announced their resignations in Lucknow, Kanpur and Allahabad.
“There is resentment among BSP workers. They are asking why OBC leaders were ignored and why Kanshi Ram saheb’s Bahujan ideology is being destroyed. It’s a problem with Mayawati that she cannot tolerate a leader who has a support base of his own. Kanshi Ram spent years to build this Bahujan Samaj, and made the BSP a national party in 13 years. She has undone all that. I hope to gather about 10,000 BSP workers to chart a separate course of politics for Bahujan Samaj,” said Gautam, who was in charge of Bihar before rebelling against Mayawati following the defeat in UP.
Many party leaders said Mayawati has changed the politics of Kanshi Ram and, ultimately, turned a party with a Bahujan base into one of Jatavs.
“Our party doesn’t have any leader from OBC castes, like Kushwaha, Kurmi, Nishad, Kashyap, Bind, Kumhar, and Scheduled Castes, like Balmiki, Kori, Dhobi, Khatik. Why is it so? A few persons are surrounding Behenji and manipulating her,” alleged Gangaram Ambedkar, a party leader who was Mayawati’s officer-on-special duty when she was chief minister but has now joined Gautam.
Pramod Kureel, former BSP MP, who has been leading a campaign against Mayawati, said most of the Dalit sub-castes were ignored by Mayawati, which made them side with the BJP. He even dubbed the BSP as a “Maya-Mishra & Company”, referring to the importance given to BSP general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, a Brahmin leader, in the party.
A senior OBC leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Anant Mishra (a Brahmin leader) has continued in the party but Babu Singh Kushwaha (an OBC) was thrown out. Kushwaha had devoted his life to the party.” Mishra, former health minister and relative of Satish Chandra Mishra, and Kushwaha, former family welfare minister, are accused in cases related to the alleged multi-crore National Rural Health Mission scam that took place during Mayawati’s term as chief minister.
Several party leaders and Dalit thinkers have also challenged Mayawati’s decision to field 100 Muslim candidates, this time — only five of them won.
“There are 19 MLAs now and we don’t know how many of these would stay with the party in the next five years,” said a party coordinator, alleging that people unattached to BSP’s ideology were given preference in ticket distribution.
“When I went to the Kanshi Ram Smarak Sthal on March 15, there were only 80 people. This has never happened before. I hoped that she would review the defeat and do the surgery that is needed. But we all know what she said. How can the EVMs which gave BSP 206 seats (in 2007) be blamed?” said Gautam.
Then again, her close aides like Naseemuddin Siddiqui, Ram Achal Rajbhar and Ramveer Upadhyaya, are facing inquiries by the state vigilance establishment for alleged corruption. After the results, Upadhyaya met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the first BSP MLA to do so.
Asked about the current situation, some party observers turned back to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when the BSP’s vote share was reduced to less than 20 per cent. With many Jatavs in western UP believed to have sided with the BJP then, Mayawati turned her focus on this caste group whose support is the party’s backbone. Three of the four Rajya Sabha members elected by the BSP were Jatavs, apart from Satish Chandra Mishra. Most of the BSP’s current MLCs, coordinators and district presidents are Jatavs, too.
At the same time, the party’s state president Rajbhar, an OBC, has remained sidelined. Even when several other OBC leaders left the party, Mayawati did not reach out to them. When Swami Prasad Maurya left the BSP last June, she replaced him with Gaya Charan Dinkar, another Jatav, as Leader of Opposition in the Assembly.
About a week ago, BSP old-timer Daddu Prasad, a Dalit from Bundelkhand’s Chitrakoot district who was expelled by Mayawati for anti-party activities in 2015, was reinducted. Mayawati also appointed senior party leader and Katehari MLA Lalji Verma, an OBC, as the party’s leader in the Assembly.
But most party workers remain demoralised. Such is the situation that if Mayawati does not ally with any other party, she is likely to lose her seat in Rajya Sabha next year when her term gets over.
Senior party leader and former MP Baliram admitted that the party needed to “introspect” but insisted that it remained connected to Kanshi Ram’s ideology. “Behenji has said in party meetings that Mishraji is with her because she needs a lawyer to fight the cases against her. The old team of BSP workers is still with the party and we can bounce back soon if we work on our mistakes,” he said.