Despite being headed by the first Dalit woman chief minister of UP, Mayawati’s BSP has put up only 21 women candidates for this Assembly election. This is about 5 per cent of the 403 seats it is contesting, the least among the four mainstream parties that have declared nominees till date. The party also does not have a woman in its national executive, among its MPs (besides Mayawati), its coordinators or its district presidents. Unlike other parties, it doesn not have a women’s wing. Party sources say the BSP had a Mahila Morcha under Kanshi Ram but was disbanded after Mayawati took over. The outgoing Assembly has only three woman BSP MLAs. Only one of them returns to contest this year.
Rajni Tiwari, Sawaijpur MLA, and Hemlata Chaudhary, Baghpat MLA, are no more nominees. Tiwari has joined BJP while Chaudhary has been replaced. Chaudhary’s husband, Prashant Chaudhary, will contest from Garh Mukteshwar. Pooja Pal, Allahabad West MLA, has made it to the list. None of them are Dalits. Other than the CM, there was only one woman minister in the previous BSP state government from 2007 to 2012.
Omwati Devi, who was minister of state for Khadi and village industries, says it was hard to meet then chief minister Mayawati. “In the five years, I could meet her (Mayawati) only a few times. I submitted a project related to my department to her but she did not respond and I was told to submit it to a bureaucrat.
After I lost the election in 2012, she expelled me from the party for no reason,” said Devi. She is a four-time MLA from Nagina seat of Bijnor district, reserved for Dalits. She joined the BJP in 2014 and is now its nominee from Nagina.
Mayavati, a two-time BSP MLA from Srinagar seat of Lakhimpur Kheri district in 1996 and 2002, said she hardly received any support from the party in the 2007 elections.
“After 2009 Lok Sabha elections, I left the party because I was not being heard by the party leadership. I tried to contact Behenji (Mayawati) but she did not meet me. She acted as per whatever the party coordinator told her. She listens only to people from her own caste,” says Mayavati, who belongs to Pasi sub-caste. She joined Congress before 2012 Assembly elections and unsuccessfully contested from the same seat.
On the other hand, Meeta Gautam, who was elected as an MLA from Fatehpur reserved seat in 2007 and is again in the fray from Zaidpur, says she found much support from the BSP president. A post-graduate from Lucknow University, she says she has been associated with the BSP since 1995. “I wanted to do social work. Nobody from my family had been in politics but Behenji has been supportive. I started as a worker in Lucknow Cantonment assembly segment.
She asked me to contest assembly election in 2007 and again in 2012 and now too,” said Gautam.
Another Dalit candidate of the BSP, former MLA Vidya Chaudhary from Mehnagar reserved seat of Azamgarh district, says she too received support from her party. She had first contested from Mehnagar in 1996 but lost. She won in 2002 and 2007 but lost in 2012. “I joined politics after completing my MA in political science from the Banaras Hindu University and preparing for state’s civil services exam for a while.
I have been in the party for so long and contested several elections. Behenji has been very supportive,” said Chaudhary.