Arithmetic is not the determinant of the political permutation and combination. It has many indices and the most vital has been the political awakening of the people, in this case, the Dalits and mahadalits of the Hindi heartland. Some columnists recall the political manoeuvring of the BSP founder Kanshi Ram. To stress upon that what Mayawati is doing in 2018, just before the assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and MP, is politically correct, may prove to be disastrous for her.
2018 is not 1987. A paradigm shift has undergone in the political and economic scenario of the country. While analysing the political implications and its dynamics one ought to not forget that the globalisation and economic reforms has brought out a major change in the politics and political economy of the country. One has to keep in mind that new social forces have emerged which are defining the lives of the countrymen. Though during those years, BSP has been striving to project itself as the social-economic force symbolising the aspirations of the scheduled castes and Dalits, it has not succeeded in its mission. In 1987 while severing his relation with the RPI, Kanshi Ram had said that he expected the RPI to bargain with the Congress. Instead, RPI was found to be begging. In contrast, the Dalits are for asserting their identity and rights.
In later years, Mayawati borrowed Kanshi Ram’s legacy. But gradually she diluted the implication of the words “begging” and “bargaining”. She also could not assert her authority as the sole representative of the Dalits and poor. New Dalit militant leaders have emerged who are challenging Mayawati’s hegemony. Mayawati has refused to be part of the mahagathbandhan unless she is given a major chunk of seats to contest. She may be right in her assertion. But politically she is wrong. The main problem with Mayawati, however, is that she does not comprehend the new idiom of Dalit assertion. It is a fact that during Modi rule, the fundamentals of Dalit assertion has undergone changes. Dalits are now increasingly asserting their individuality, which is a new form of Dalit politics. The new Dalit leadership has been trying to place the Dalit question in relation and contradiction between the capitalist economy and market forces that have been defining the Indian economy. In this backdrop simply seeking more seats is against the basic ethics of the Dalit politics.
This is the reason that she has been keeping distance from Gujrat’s Mewani or Ravan of Bhim Sena in Uttar Pradesh. She is apprehensive that kind closeness with the emerging Dalit leadership would marginalise her. Mayawati’s action makes it absolutely clear she has not come to comprehend the Dalit-oriented moves of the BJP. The saffron scholars are aware of these developments. With the avowed aim to win Dalit population, the BJP leadership, especially Narendra Modi government, has been dreadfully trying to identify themselves with ../images of Babasaheb. But their efforts and zeal to appropriate Ambedkar have not succeeded to the extent they desire. The violence and oppression perpetrated on Dalits during last four years have made them scared of the BJP trap and intentions.
She has not been able to throw a challenge to the BJP machination to hindunise Ambedkar. Mayawati could have used the 2019 Lok Sabha election as an opportunity to consolidate her grip on the Dalits and untouchables and resuscitate her own image as a Dalit champion. Unfortunately, her impulsive political actions have given her a negative hue. Her latest action to bargain seats simply lends credence to the old perception that she continues to be a self-centred game spoiler simply strengthens the common belief that she was acting like a pawn in the hands of the BJP. If she was really interested in brokering an honourable seat adjustment, she should have sat with other leaders instead of blurting out in the public.
No doubt the efforts to unite the opposition and the forces opposed to the BJP have suffered a jolt, but it is temporary. What has come as really surprising is Mayawati attacking the Congress, calling it communal, casteist and arrogant. In eventuality, if Congress concedes her demand then how should retrace from her these nasty remarks. This would further lower her prestige and image in the eyes of her own men. Otherwise too, her anger does not reflect the political maturity; instead, it echoes her anger for her unfulfilled desire for material gain.
It is a matter of paradox that the party which appeared to be growing from a Dalit to a Sarvajan (Dalit-plus force) is striving to protect its core support base. Her keeping open a window for alliance with the Congress during the 2019 general election is nothing but purely a politics of opportunism. Nevertheless, some of the Dalit leaders nurse the view that she owes an explanation to the Dalits and poor why she is out to help the BJP.
(The author is a political commentator)