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Down several leaders, Maya eyes west UP, woman vote

Over the past two years, party president Mayawati has suspended or expelled a majority of her MLAs for anti-party activities, with Chillupar MLA Vinay Shankar Tiwari being the latest.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Lucknow |
December 9, 2021 5:38:06 am
Days after the 2017 poll rout, Mayawati had expelled Naseemuddin Siddiqui, the BSP's Muslim face, on charges of anti-party activities. Siddiqui later joined the Congress.

THE BSP won 19 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections, but months ahead of the 2022 elections, only three members can turn up for the party in the Assembly — Uma Shankar Singh (Rasara), Azad Ali Mardan (Lalganj) and Shyam Sunder Sharma (Manth).

Over the past two years, party president Mayawati has suspended or expelled a majority of her MLAs for anti-party activities, with Chillupar MLA Vinay Shankar Tiwari being the latest.

While sources in the party said they are worried about the timing of the exits — just when the BSP needed all hands on the deck to counter a strong BJP and a resurgent SP — officially, the BSP maintains that the action is part of Mayawati’s no-compromise stand on indiscipline and that it won’t hurt the party.

BSP spokesperson M H Khan said, “It was Mayawati ji who turned them into leaders of stature otherwise they have no personal strength and following. Hence, their expulsion or decision to quit the BSP is not going to affect our prospects in the upcoming elections.”

It all started in 2016 with the exit of Swami Prasad Maurya, considered the strongest leader in the party after Mayawati and a prominent OBC face. Maurya, who joined the BJP, is now a Cabinet minister in the Yogi Adityanath government.

Days after the 2017 poll rout, Mayawati had expelled Naseemuddin Siddiqui, the BSP’s Muslim face, on charges of anti-party activities. Siddiqui later joined the Congress.

Two sitting MLAs and prominent OBC leaders, Ram Achal Rajbhar and Lalji Verma, too, were expelled and are now with the SP.

Then there’s Mukhtar Ansari, gangster-turned-politician and five-term MLA, who is lodged in Banda jail. As part of her decision to deny tickets to bahubali (musclemen) and mafia, Mayawati has announced that he won’t be fielded in the upcoming elections.

Besides these expulsions and suspensions, what has added to the uncertainty in the organisation is Mayawati’s decision to change party presidents of the state unit — four times in the past five years. In 2018, then state president Ram Achal Rajbhar was replaced with R S Kushwaha, who, in turn, was replaced with Munquad Ali in 2019. Again, a year later, Maaywati appointed Bhim Rajbhar as state chief.
A senior party senior leader said the changes were effected when the incumbents “started believing they had become leaders of tall stature” and began asking district-level workers to organise grand welcome ceremonies for them.

Party sources say the exits don’t matter because Mayawati is anyway the sole decision making authority.

Despite this seemingly endless churn in the party organisation, Mayawati seems to have a strategy in place for the elections.

While confident that she has the support of her core Jatav constituency, Mayawati is looking to expand her reach to upper castes, especially Brahmins, and Muslims.

National general secretary S C Mishra, the most prominent leader in the party after Mayawati and a key Brahmin face, has been holding Prabuddha Varg sammelans that are aimed especially at the Brahmin community.

While the party has tried the Dalit-Brahmin formulation in the 2017 election — both communities together have a 36 per cent vote share — this time, Mayawati is reaching out to Jats and Muslims and deployed leaders from these communities in western UP, an attempt at stealing the SP-Rashtriya Lok Dal’s (RLD) thunder.

For now, Mayawati is focusing on the state’s 86 reserved constituencies (84 for SCs and two for STs), where she has a strong base and reckons that a bhaichara between castes may add to the BSP’s seats. Among the 84 SC seats, the BSP won only three in the 2017 Assembly polls and 15 in 2012.

Though Mayawati has been out of power in UP for over a decade, party insiders point to the vote share in successive elections to say that the BSP is still a force to reckon with. While the party’s vote share in the 2007 Assembly elections, when it won an absolute majority with 206 seats, was 30.43 per cent, it came down to 25.95 per cent in 2012 (80 seats). But even in the 2017 elections, when the party won 19 seats, its vote share stood at 22.23 per cent. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, which the party contested in alliance with the SP and RLD, the party won 10 seats with a vote share of 19.42 per cent.

In an election where the stakes are high for the BSP and its chief, Mayawati has launched another first — for a party that never releases pre-poll manifestos, she released a folder of the work done by earlier BSP governments and directed party workers to distribute these in every village and town across the state with a message that if the BSP returns to power in 2022, her government will work for development and public welfare. She has also launched an outreach programme targeting women and the youth.

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