By raking up the demand of a CBI probe into the death of BSP founder Kanshi Ram’s death, the Bharatiya Janata Party has tried to hit Mayawati where it could hurt her election prospects the most. The timing of the demand is significant since both the parties have just launched their election campaigns for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections due in early 2017. The BJP is trying to cut Mayawati’s Dalit vote bank, one that adores Kanshi Ram – who was also Mayawati’s mentor. Mayawati launched her poll campaign recently on Kanshi Ram’s death anniversary in Lucknow where it attacked the BJP. The former CM took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and alleged that he has politicised and exploited the recent surgical strikes along the Line of Control with Pakistan.
BJP state president Keshav Prasad Maurya demanded that the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government should initiate a CBI probe into Kanshi Ram’s death otherwise the BJP will do it (if and) when it comes to power in the state. Maurya claimed that he received letters from Kanshi Ram’s relatives and some BSP leaders that led him to believe that Kanshi Ram may have been murdered.
After being bed-ridden for more than two years, Kanshi Ram died of heart attack on 9 October 2006 in New Delhi. He had also suffered from multiple ailments such as stroke, diabetes and hypertension.
BSP has exercised near absolute command over the Dalit voter base and Mayawati has reaped the benefits of that support for over two decades. The BJP would know well that such a demand will send ripples among the Dalits and it would definitely want to find out the hard facts behind their late leader’s demise.
Dalits constitute at least 24 per cent of the electorate in UP and the BJP would know that to defeat Mayawati, breaking that support is vital. Especially when it isn’t likely to get a huge support from the Muslim community. It will also need to handle the situation carefully as its flirting with the BSP cost it badly in 2002 when it lost a chunk of the Rajput votes which is in itself not much but aligns significantly with the Brahmins and the Banias.
Although votes from the Dalit community will significantly help the BJP, the party won’t expect much support itself. It will, however, hope that there is some unrest among the Dalit electorate loyal to BSP using the issue of Kanshi Ram’s death. The BJP is not openly trying to woo the BSP’s vote bank much like Mayawati tried with SP’s Muslim vote bank. Division of Dalit votes will be vital for the BJP to dethrone Mayawati as the frontrunner in these elections.