In a significant indicator of major change in the Dalit politics of Uttar Pradesh, as many as 16 outfits of Dalits, Muslims and OBCs, led mostly by former leaders of the Bahujan Samaj Party, held a daylong meeting in Delhi Sunday to chalk out an agenda to “oust Mayawati” and dent her core “Bahujan” vote. These outfits, brought on a single platform by Mayawati’s former lieutenant Naseemuddin Siddiqui, formed a National Bahujan Alliance, and a Coordination Committee with former BSP MP Pramod Kureel as convener. Kureel says he is “still in the BSP but wants to oust Mayawati (as its leader)”.
Mayawati, who resigned from Rajya Sabha last month saying she was not being allowed to speak on atrocities against Dalits, had expelled Siddiqui from the BSP in May after the party suffered a crushing defeat in the UP Assembly elections. There has been speculation about Siddiqui’s next step ever since. Sources close to Siddiqui, as well as some BSP MLAs, told The Indian Express that the BJP has been in touch with them, even though they continued to have reservations about joining the saffron camp. And yet, the timing and venue of Sunday’s meeting, Delhi’s Constitution Club when Parliament is in session, suggested a quickening pace of developments in Dalit politics.
“Sixteen political and non-political outfits from several states gathered today. The Committee will soon hold another meeting and we will form a joint front of Sarv Samaj and contest elections,” Siddiqui said. Said Kureel: “The aura of Mayawati has been exposed now. Many leaders have left her in recent years but they are not organised. They all call themselves followers of Kanshi Ramji, but work alone. Hence, there was a need to bring them together. Our main aim is to give an identity and alternative to the Bahujan samaj.”
With no member in Lok Sabha and just 19 MLAs in UP, and with little chance of re-election to Rajya Sabha, the possibility of Mayawati playing a prominent role in national politics has reduced drastically. For over a decade, she has been the fulcrum of Dalit politics in UP and in several other states — with the decline in her power now, a massive Dalit vote is up for grabs. The significance of this vote for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is enormous.
In April, several former and existing BSP leaders had formed the Federation of Bahujan Organisations of India. After his expulsion, Siddiqui became its natural leader. Among the outfits present in Sunday’s meeting were the Indian National League, Kanshi Ram’s Bahujan Sangharsh Party, film actor Rajpal Yadav’s Sarv Sambhav Party, the Bahaman Mukti Morcha, and a sister organisation of the All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees’ Federation, or BAMCEF.
Among those who spoke at Sunday’s meeting were Suresh Mane, a former BSP national general secretary who was expelled by Mayawati in June 2015; Ram Krishna Yadav, who entered Lok Sabha in 1989 as the BSP’s first MP; Dalwara Singh, the younger brother of BSP founder Kanshi Ram; Salim Ansari, who was a BSP member of Rajya Sabha until July 2016; and Rajpal Yadav. All of them spoke against Mayawati. “Mayawati Kanshi Ramji ke mission ko bech rahi hain. We will not let her do so. Many are joining our front… She only wants money. Many BSP members are joining us,” Ansari said. “We will form a political party and contest elections.”
Mane said, “There is a vacant space for Bahujan politics. We will fill this space.” Kureel claimed that “within a few months, we will have more ex-MPs of BSP then Mayawati”. All these leaders have been aggressively touring UP to win over BSP workers. While their focus remains UP, they are meeting again at the same venue, Delhi’s Constitution Club, on August 26.