The Elephant marchhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/the-elephant-march/

The Elephant march

<I>ABHI nahin to kabhi nahin</I> (If not now,then never),” is how Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders describe Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s chances of becoming Prime.....

“ABHI nahin to kabhi nahin (If not now,then never),” is how Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders describe Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s chances of becoming Prime Minister after the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. Even as denials from various Third Front parties fly back and forth about Maya being named as its prime ministerial candidate,BSP leaders have been relentlessly trying to expand the party’s base across India,with BSP leaders expected to contest almost all the 543 Lok Sabha seats in India.

Though Mayawati herself has declared that there is no “scope” to discuss the prime ministerial candidate for the Third Front until after the results for the 15th Lok Sabha results are declared,her strategic efforts to permeate regional boundaries at this juncture do add fuel to the guessing game about her ambitions. A look at the inroads made by the BSP across the country:

The south

“It was not her sudden decision to send (the BSP’s) national secretary Satish Chandra Mishra to attend the Third Front rally in Karnataka. She weighed her options well and then she found herself in a strong bargaining position to be projected as the prime-ministerial candidate of the proposed Third Front,” a source in the BSP disclosed.

Incidentally,the rally was organised just three days before the celebration of her party’s founder Kanshi Ram’s birth anniversary on March 15. “She killed two birds with one stone. First,she used this opportunity to communicate her demand for her projection as the PM candidate to the Third Front leaders before inviting them to attend her party’s function. Then she ensured considerable rise in her popularity graph among the voters of southern states as her party’s organisational works in Kerala,Andhra Pradesh,Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have already crossed the third stage,” another source said.

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The party’s groundwork in almost every state provides an insight into her game plan (see box) to force regional parties to accept her as a force to be reckoned with. “She is not only popular but also in a position to damage the electoral prospect of regional political parties in several states,” a BSP source,who is associated with organisational matters,explained.

In Kerala,the Mayawati has approved the candidates for 13 of the total 20 seats. “We had contested 106 out of the total 140 seats in the last Assembly election in Kerala and vote share was about 1.24 per cent. This is for the first time when we are going to contest all the seats in Kerala,” Suresh Manse who is in-charge of the Kerala,Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh told this reporter.

The party is also being noticed in Karnataka. “We have worked a lot to woo the Madiga,Gohara and Holia castes. Within the Lingayat community,there are several castes and they have been also covered under the party’s Bhaichara committees,” a source in BSP disclosed. The party has already announced 15 candidates out of the total 28 seats. “Soon the names of the rest of the candidates would be announced,” the party’s Karnataka in-charge Veer Singh said.

Madhya Pradesh

“We receive an average seven to eight applications from those hoping to be the party’s candidate in every constituency of this state,” said Narayan Prasad Ahirwar who heads the BSP’s Madhya Pradesh unit.

The BSP had begun its association with the Madhya Pradesh right from the days of Kanshi Ram. Although the party could bag only seven seats in the last Assembly election,it polled 11 per cent votes. “Nearly 20 candidates of the BSP got 30-35 percent vote polled,” recalled a source. The state has already sent one BSP member to Parliament. As per the party’s assessment,12 seats are put under the ‘A’ category this time. “A category means those parliamentary constituencies where the party had performed well and bagged more than two lakhs votes,” explained a party insider.

The candidates’ list of the Madhya Pradesh unit is still awaiting Mayawati’s approval.

Rajasthan and Delhi

“Gone are the days when we used to play the role of spoilsport. The Assembly elections in four states (Rajasthan,Delhi,MP and Chhattisgarh) were an eye-opener for us. Now we hope to win seats in these states,” a senior leader said. The party’s vote-share in Rajasthan was about 8 per cent while it had won six Assembly seats in the state. “The party has selected two of its Rajasthan MLAs as Lok Sabha candidates in Rajasthan,” another source said. In Delhi,the party has announced the names of its candidates for all the seven seats. “The main focus of the party is on South Delhi,North-West Delhi and East Delhi seats,” the source added.

Punjab and Haryana

The party has almost completed the candidate-selection process in Uttarakhand,Punjab and Haryana,besides Uttar Pradesh. “These are the states in which the party’s important brotherhood committees have already accomplished what they set out to do,while the booth committees are functioning well,” said a source,describing the relatively early selection of candidates in these states. For example,the party has already cleared the names of 12 candidates out of a total of 13 seats in Punjab. These candidates include former governor B K N Chhibber for Amritsar,retired IFS officer Surjeet Singh for the Jalandhar seat and former Sessions Judge Gurnam Singh Sewak.

Maharashtra

The party has cleared the names of 13 out of 42 seats of Maharashtra. “The party has formed the bhaichara committees for different castes such as Banjara,Teli Samaj,Maratha,Dhangar,Madi and Kunabi in all of Maharashtra’s districts,” said a source. “Arun Gawli has been selected as BSP candidate for the South-Central Mumbai seat,besides Mahant Sudhir Das from Nashik. Mahant belongs to the same family that had stopped Ambedkar from entering a temple.

Bihar

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Mayawati is set to release a list of candidates for Bihar. “The party’s position in Bihar is better only in such areas that are located close to the border,” a BSP leader added.

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