WHEN Mayawati Saturday picked Gaya Charan Dinkar as the BSP’s new Legislature Party leader, making way for his appointment as the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, the party’s supremo reasserted her stance that she has been following since the rout in the Lok Sabha elections two years ago: keeping close the Jatav community – a Dalit sub-caste which both Dinkar and Mayawati herself belong to.
The largest scheduled caste, Jatavs constitute over 56 per cent of UP’s Dalits – or about 21 per cent of the state’s entire population. The group, considered to be one of the strongest followers of B R Ambedkar and his ideologies among all the scheduled castes, has been the BSP’s backbone since its inception. Most of the party’s coordinators, district presidents and lower-level functionaries have belonged to this community.
Amid the growing sense of its Dalit vote bank registering a dent – no seats in 2014 elections, subsequent desertions by several party leaders, and attacks from BSP founder Kanshi Ram’s family members — have all but forced Mayawati to go back to asserting that her focus hasn’t shifted from “Bahujan Samaj” (Dalits and OBCs) to “Sarvajan Samaj” (upper castes).
Three of the four Rajya Sabha MPs and four of the six MLCs nominated by the party since 2014 belong to the Jatav community.
This was in contrast to her stance in 2010 (when her party was in power) when she picked only two Dalits while nominating seven members for the Rajya Sabha. The remaining comprised three OBCs, one Muslim and one Brahmin. Even after losing power in 2012 assembly elections, Mayawati selected herself and Munquad Ali for Rajya Sabha nomination.
But the rout in Lok Sabha elections, in which BJP won all the 17 constituencies reserved for Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, took Mayawati off her fledgling experiments and sent her back to Dalits, or more precisely, Jatavs. At her first meeting with party workers after the Lok Sabha poll results in 2014, she assured that her “focus will be on Dalits moving forward”.
Since then, she has kept her word.
Besides renominating both the MPs from Jatav sub-caste, Veer Singh and Raja Ram, that year, in the recent Rajya Sabha polls, she selected another community leader, Ashok Sidharth, while picking her party’s national general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, a Brahmin, as the second nominee. (BSP could only have sent two candidates with its 80-member strength in the state assembly.)
In the last two years, alongside four Jatav leaders nominated for the post of MLCs, only one Muslim (general secretary Nasimuddin Siddiqui) and one OBC leader (Suresh Kashyap) could make the cut.
Badri Narayan, a JNU professor and author of a biography on Kanshi Ram, said Mayawati may have been giving importance to non-Jatav leaders earlier, she has firmly shifted her focus back to her base after the “surprising” result of 2014 elections.
“There have also been claims like Dalits are angry because she gave importance to Brahmins. Then there was the shock of 2014 elections. She is doing that recovery by pleasing Jatavs. But she will reach out to backward castes like Maurya-Saini through distribution of tickets in the assembly elections next year,” he said.