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Explained: Mayawati’s attack on Akhilesh, and BSP’s problems within

Sources in the BSP said the churning within the party, including the resentment among senior leaders, had started soon after the Lok Sabha elections, in which the alliance with the SP came a cropper.

BSP chief Mayawati with Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav. The BSP and SP, arch rivals in UP since 1995, had kept aside their differences to join hands before last year's Lok Sabha elections (file/PTI)

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati on Thursday (October 29) said the 2019 alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the withdrawal of the June 2, 1995 guest house case, when an alleged attempt was made on her life, had been “a big mistake” – and that BSP MLAs would, if required, vote for the candidate of the BJP or any other party in the upcoming Legislative Council elections just to ensure that the second candidate of the SP was defeated.

Mayawati’s “tit for tat” announcement came the day after a rebellion by six MLAs of her party who refused to support the BSP’s official candidate for the Rajya Sabha elections of November 9, and met Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.

For some hours on Wednesday, it had seemed as though a contest might take place for one of the 10 seats from Uttar Pradesh, and that the BSP rebels would join hands with the SP to try to elect an Independent candidate who had thrown his hat in the ring on Tuesday.

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As it happened though, the SP-backed Independent’s nomination was rejected on technical grounds during scrutiny, clearing the way for the BSP candidate, even though the party’s 18 MLAs were not enough to elect him on their own steam.

“Humnein chunao ke dauran 2 June 1995 ke case ko waapas lekar bahut badi galti ki hai… saath hi inke saath na hi koi gathbandhan aadi karna chahiye tha. Yeh bhi humnein thoda galat faisla le liya… Thoda deeply sochte to shaayad yeh decision na lete,” Mayawati said.

The SP’s attitude was “anti-Dalit”, and this had been demonstrated during the Rajya Sabha polls, she alleged. She denied the SP’s accusation that she was working in concert with the BJP, but said she would give the SP a “tit for tat” in the Legislative Council polls: “BSP MLAs will vote for BJP or any other party to defeat the Samajwadi Party’s second candidate”.

Collapse of a fragile experiment

Sources in the BSP said the churning within the party, including the resentment among senior leaders, had started soon after the Lok Sabha elections, in which the alliance with the SP came a cropper. But the rebellion by the five MLAs including party veterans on Wednesday came as a shock to Mayawati, who is not used to her decisions being questioned, let alone being compared unfavourably with Akhilesh.

The BSP and SP, arch rivals in UP since 1995, had kept aside their differences to join hands before last year’s Lok Sabha elections, and Mayawati had even gone ahead and withdrawn the case against SP leaders in the 1995 guest house incident, which had led to the collapse of the then SP-BSP government.

Their “anti-BJP” alliance, however, failed to stop the BJP – the BSP could get only 10 seats, and the SP won five, mainly members of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family. On Thursday, Mayawati said Akhilesh had turned out to be like his father.

Don’t miss from Explained | Does BSP hold any influence in Bihar?

BSP: Mayawati’s house divided

Although the BSP has been attempting the politics of social engineering, trying to bring together Dalits, Muslims, and Brahmins, several observers expect Mayawati to try to cosy up to the BJP ahead of the Assembly elections of 2022. It is for this reason, it is argued, that the BJP, despite being the ruling party with 304 MLAs, did not field a ninth candidate for Rajya Sabha, and seemingly left its spare votes for the BSP’s candidate, which has just 18 MLAs in the Assembly.

This, however, has created a situation in which many BSP leaders, especially Muslims, non-Jatavs, as well as Most Backwards feel they have no option but the SP if they are to continue with “anti-BJP” politics in their constituencies. The allegedly increasing distance between the BSP leadership and those working on ground is being talked about openly now, especially after some BSP leaders have had an opportunity to connect with the SP leadership during the 2019 polls.

This, in fact, is the reason Mayawati referred to the 2019 alliance with the SP as a “big mistake” – because it opened channels of communication between the two political parties at multiple levels, and which are not going to be shut with her announcement of the break with the SP. On Wednesday, rebel MLAs of her party repeatedly said it was difficult to approach their leader, whereas Akhilesh was “easily accessible.” They criticised Mayawati’s system of working through “co-ordinators”, and complained that the information she received was often filtered.

A senior BSP leader said the lack of accessibility to Mayawati was not new in itself – however, the frustration of party leaders and workers increased with the taste of collaboration with the SP leadership in 2019. Many BSP leaders and workers have kept those lines open, the leader said.📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

“In 2022, when we go to seek votes for an alternative to the BJP, the BSP’s evident bonhomie with the BJP will hurt many of us. Also, party co-ordinators have already started moving in our constituencies, indicating a change of candidates. In this situation, we have no option but to look towards the SP if we have to do anti-BJP politics in the state,” said a BSP leader.

Among those who have already shifted their loyalty to the SP are former UP Minister Kamlakant Gautam, former BSP state president Dayaram Pal, and senior leaders such as Daud Ahmed, Indrajeet Saroj, and Ram Prasad Chaudhary. And on Wednesday, Aslam Rainee, Aslam Chaudhary, Mujtaba Siddiqui, Hakim Lal Bind, Hargovind Bhargava, and Sushma Patel came out in rebellion.

CURRENT STRENGTH IN ASSEMBLY

BJP: 304

Apna Dal (BJP ally): 9

Nishad Party: 1

Samajwadi Party: 48

Bahujan Samaj Party: 18

Congress: 7

Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party: 4

Rashtriya Lok Dal: 1

Independent: 3

Nominated: 1

Vacant: 8

TOTAL: 404

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