For a man who figures in three of the most-watched elections across three states, not much is known about Ramji Gautam — just like how BSP supremo Mayawati likes her party leaders to be, known but not seen or heard.
The 41-year-old Dalit leader who is the Bihar Assembly elections and Madhya Pradesh bypolls in-charge for the BSP has just entered the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh. More precisely, despite the BSP having an effective strength of only 15 in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, Gautam won unopposed, with the BJP supporting him. Soon after, Mayawati declared that her party would back anybody, including the BJP, in the Legislative Council polls to keep the Samajwadi Party out — later, she said the BSP could never go with the BJP.
As for Bihar, BSP leaders argue that the choice of Gautam, who has never contested an election, rests on his organisational strengths. “His main skill is that he has a good grip over the workings of the party,” said a senior BSP leader, adding that he is also one of the party’s main “strategists”.
Belonging to Lakhimpur Kheri district in north Uttar Pradesh, Gautam, who studied chemical engineering followed by an MBA and runs a business, first came to the limelight in 2018 when Mayawati made him the BSP national vice-president. In June 2019, she made him the national coordinator of the party along with her nephew Akash Anand. “Before being made national coordinator, he was the coordinator for Jhansi and Chitrakoot zones. Before 2015, he held posts for the party at the district level,” said the senior leader.
A BSP leader in Lakhimpur Kheri said Gautam had risen through the ranks after joining the party in 1998. “He was an active leader in the student circle in the district and used to raise issues related to the Scheduled Caste community,” said the leader.
In 2019, Gautam had found himself at the centre of allegations of selling tickets for the party. Mayawati, however, had dubbed it a “Congress conspiracy”, intended to make Gautam leave Rajasthan, a state whose charge he held for the BSP at the time. Announcing his candidature for the Rajya Sabha polls — with an effective strength of 15 MLAs, the BSP had no credible chance of ensuring a win without the support of another party — Mayawati underlined that the nomination was for Gautam’s “hard work and honesty”.
Said a BSP leader, “Gautam has seen some big leaps in the party and the Rajya Sabha nomination is probably the biggest one.”
In the Bihar Assembly elections, the BSP is contesting in a Grand Democratic Secular Front alliance of six parties, led by the RLSP and including the AIMIM. Mayawati has addressed two rallies so far as the polls move to the Seemanchal area considered the AIMIM’s stronghold.