In a fragmented polity in which multiple parties compete for power, every leader with a political base can count. At a time when political parties in UP are focused on the accretion of castes and communities ahead of next year’s assembly polls, Swami Prasad Maurya’s resignation from the BSP could arguably hurt the party’s plans. Maurya, who was national general secretary, has been an influential OBC leader in this Dalit-centric party for over two decades and has led its legislature wing in the UP assembly. His political career predates his tenure in the BSP and his Lok Dal/Janata Dal past contributed towards earning him acceptance among the non-Yadav OBC castes, a segment that lies outside the core support of Mayawati.
Maurya has accused Mayawati of auctioning tickets, a charge levelled against the BSP chief by many others in the past, and claimed that he felt “suffocated” in the party. She has countered that Maurya’s discontent stems from her refusal to give assembly tickets to his son and daughter — both, incidentally, have contested elections on the BSP ticket more than once and lost. Whatever be the real cause of the rift, Maurya’s departure also points to a pyramidal organisational structure where all decision-making powers are entrusted with the party chief. This has been so particularly since the BSP founder, Kanshi Ram, retreated from active politics due to ill-health. It has not prevented the party from winning elections, especially in UP, but Mayawati’s failure to build on the pan-Indian vote Kanshi Ram had established by the 1980s could also be explained by her penchant to micro-manage party affairs. Before Maurya, many leaders in states, including Kanshi Ram’s contemporaries and aides, have felt “suffocated” under her and left the BSP. The original conception of the BSP as a movement in mission mode for the eradication or overturning of the caste system and the emancipation and empowerment of the bahujan samaj also suffered as the party became transformed into a leader-centric outfit, with its core vote limited to the Jatavs, Mayawati’s own caste.
If the BSP wishes to grow in UP and elsewhere, this may need to change. At present, the three major parties in UP — the SP, BSP and the BJP — have a core vote of about 15-20 per cent each. It is difficult to expand this vote — all parties have reached a saturation point. Hence, winning over new segments of the electorate is necessary to grow and expand. The BSP’s bhaichara attempts to win over Brahmins and Muslims succeeded in the 2007 assembly election, but the party could never really translate this pre-poll tactic to a political strategy towards building a stable social coalition.