No one in her pocket

Sacking ministers,stitching castes and communities together,taking the Dalit vote for granted — the BSP is nervous and in a hurry

Written by Virender Kumar | Published:January 4, 2012 3:18 am

In just over a week,UP Chief Minister Mayawati has dismissed 10 of her ministers. The reasons are as diverse as the failure to discharge their duties,misuse of official position,corruption and lack of interest in “people’s problems” — all leading to resentment in their constituencies. Clearly,none of them will get a BSP ticket for the February election. They are among the one-third of her 200-odd MLAs that Mayawati is weeding out. This is a work in progress,for no one knows what the final figure will be given that there has been no official announcement.

The signal from the government is that Mayawati is convinced she remains popular but many of her MLAs and ministers are not. Corollary: if she gets rid of them,she is more likely to win.

Of course,changing ministers is a CM’s prerogative. But to wake up in the last month of her term to ensure accountability raises questions about her leadership,political acumen and administrative capabilities. It also underlines that as the leader,she is more comfortable playing the blame game than opening herself to scrutiny,which is what an assembly election is all about.

The reasons for this aren’t hard to find.

In 2007,she got the popular vote to eliminate “Mulayam Singh’s jungle raj” and restore the rule of law. There were initial successes but then her power-drunk partymen took over. Over the next five years,at least 10 BSP leaders,including ministers,MPs and MLAs,were booked for serious crime,including murder and rape. And even as she put them behind bars,her government quietly began to withdraw criminal cases against many history-sheeters.

With the crime,came corruption. Recall the murder of two chief medical officers,the suspicious death of a deputy CMO in jail,and the massive scandal in the alleged misuse of NRHM funds under Babu Singh Kushwaha,one of the very few ministers who had direct access to her.

While the CBI is still investigating those murders and the NRHM scam,six of her ministers have already been indicted by the Lokayukta for corruption. Now the heat is getting closer to Mayawati: the Lokayukta is investigating charges of corruption and misuse of office against her senior-most minister,Naseemuddin Siddiqui,who is accused,along with other acts of misdemeanour,of influencing the distribution of subsidised tractors meant for farmers,to the benefit of his own nephews,BSP men and civil contractors. Add to this the land acquisition controversy in Noida and Greater Noida,the monuments and parks and statues.

Mayawati seems to see the greatest danger from the Congress,much more than from the SP or the BJP. That’s why she has concentrated her attacks on the Congress,particularly Rahul Gandhi,whom she mockingly calls Yuvraj. By raising issues like the division of UP into smaller states,reservation for Muslims,OBC status for Jats,inclusion of more communities in the list of SCs,and then blaming the Centre for blocking all of this,she hopes to turn the election into a vote against the Congress,even if the party has been in the political wilderness in UP for more than two decades.

She is also trying to fix caste and community equations through the BSP’s specially constituted “bhaichara committees”,right down to the polling booth level. In recent weeks,the BSP has organised a Brahmin sammelan,a Dalit sammelan and a joint sammelan of Muslims,Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.

And what was her warcry? “Chad vipaksh ki chhati par,mohar lagao hathi par” — a small but significant variation on her 2007 slogan,“Chad gundon ki chhati par,mohar lagao hathi par”,which suggests that she views the opposition as the new evil,at par with the goondas of the previous regime.

All this is excellent ammunition for the opposition parties. The BJP promises Ram Rajya and has pulled Sanjay Joshi out of the doghouse — where he was consigned after that sex CD in 2005 — and has tasked him to ensure peace and order among party leaders in UP who are unhappy since Uma Bharti was sent from Madhya Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi rails against the politics of caste and religion but thinks it necessary to inform his audience that Sam Pitroda,the architect of the country’s telecom revolution,is a badhai (carpenter) by caste. Mulayam Singh is bending over backwards to please Muslims,with foe-turned-friend Azam Khan by his side to persuade the community to forget his handshake with Kalyan Singh in 2009.

The BSP and its well-wishers are pinning their hopes on a three-way split in the opposition vote,the party’s strong organisational network and the Dalit vote,which they believe is in Mayawati’s pocket. Their argument runs something like this: Mayawati had won a majority in 2007 by polling 30.4 per cent votes,the Dalits are 21 per cent,so she just needs a few per cent votes each from Muslims,Brahmins and some other communities.

If you take such assumptions seriously,just go back to the 2009 Lok Sabha election when Mayawati was angling to become prime minister at the head of a non-BJP,non-Congress coalition. It was assumed that Dalits,keen to see her as prime minister,would vote for the BSP en bloc. She put up candidates on almost all seats from Gujarat in the west to Assam in the east,from Kerala in the south to Jammu in the north. But,when the results came,the BSP drew a blank in other states and in UP its tally was a mere 20,behind the SP’s 23 and the Congress’s 21. The real shocker,however,was the party’s performance in reserved constituencies — it won only two of the 17.

Certainly,2012 is not 2009. Nor is it 2007,and Dalits,or for that matter Muslims and Brahmins,are not in anyone’s pocket,not even Mayawati’s deep pockets.

virender.kumar@expressindia.com

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