Crafting the bahujan rainbow

Mayawati aims to win over Muslims, other social groups to expand BSP base.

Written by Badri Narayan | Published:September 16, 2016 12:02 am
mayawati, uttar pradesh, uttar pradesh elections 2017, up polls, bsp, mayawati campaign, muslim voters, muslim votebank, dali votes, samajwadi party, amit shah, bjpp campaign, congress campaign, rahul gandhi, khaat sabha, mayawati want muslim votes, indian express news, indian express opinion BSP Chief Mayawati. Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey.

The politics of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections has reached an interesting juncture. All the political parties have tightened their belts for mission 2017 and are following different strategies to fulfil it.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) is taking out advertisements on news channels and newspapers announcing new policies. The grand rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the BJP national executive at Allahabad in and the rallies organised by Amit Shah in various parts of UP since are a part of the BJP’s plan to capture UP. The Congress has also made a move by organising road shows, meetings and discussions.

The BSP is not lagging behind. BSP supremo Mayawati organised four big “Sarvajan Hitae, Sarvajan Sukhay” (for the peace and prosperity of all) rallies between August 20 and September 12 in various parts of UP. Keeping its electoral strategy in mind, the BSP organised these rallies in Agra, Azamgarh, Allahabad and Saharanpur. The locations were chosen strategically — these are regions where the BSP has a strong base among the Dalits. The main motive of the BSP is to recharge its voters and inspire them to become party cadre.
Their focus is not just on Dalits, but also on Muslims and people belonging to other castes.

These rallies reveal three important aspects of the BSP’s poll strategy. First, it plans to organise bigger and better rallies than Narendra Modi and the BJP. Second, it intends to mobilise its real voters and sympathisers instead of just focusing on the size of the crowd. Third, it hopes to gather votes from other castes and minorities besides consolidating their Dalit base.

The strengthening of the Dalit-Muslim alliance is an important part of the BSP’s plan. It began working towards this social alliance two-three years ago. As a part of its social engineering strategy, it has formed bhaichara samitis to strengthen the Brahmin-Dalit alliance and spread it to the grass roots. To strengthen the Dalit-Muslim alliance, the party is working to form a core team of local and regional Dalit and Muslim leaders to spread fraternal feelings at the grass roots.

BSP leaders have started visiting the Dalit and Muslim bastis and slums. Local leaders of the party visit Muslim slums targeting the “BJP-SP undeclared and invisible alliance” and claim that “there won’t be any riots after Mayawati’s return to power”. Besides targeting the BJP among the Dalit-Muslim electorate, the BSP is also making Muslims suspicious of the SP, the party they had supported for nearly 25 years.

In order to strengthen the alliance, Mayawati plans to provide tickets to more than 100 Muslim candidates. She feels that Muslim candidates in these regions might lure Muslim voters to cast their votes in the BSP’s favour. Dalits are in any case expected to cast votes in her name. BSP strategists hold the view that such an alliance will not only have a positive effect on the Muslim voters in regions with Muslim candidates, it will also effect other Vidhan Sabha regions and lure voters to the BSP.

Though the BSP perceives Muslims as a singular entity, its focus is on OBC and Dalit Muslims or the Azlaf and the Arzal Muslims. The party is increasingly active in the hamlets and slums of Muslim social groups like Ansari, Gaddi, Tatwa, Fakir, Halalkhor etc. This time, the party is not attempting to exploit class and caste differences among the Muslims, though it often highlights the issues of poor Muslims. The phrase “poor Muslim” invokes the category of class, without breaking away from Kanshi Ram’s idea of poor Muslims being a part of bahujan unity, which includes Dalits, MBCs and OBCs.

Mayawati seems to be consolidating at two levels. One, she is inviting Muslims to attach with her Dalit base. Two, she is also working on the sarvajan hitay slogan to broadbase her constituency to include MBCs, savarna Thakurs and Brahmins. Her electoral success will depend on how far she can win over multiple social groups.

The writer is professor, Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion, JNU

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