Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati’s address at a massive rally in Lucknow to commemorate the 10th death anniversary of party founder Kanshi Ram provided the voting public with a window into her strategy for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. “To stop the BJP, the vote should not go to either the Samajwadi Party or the Congress as with every Assembly seat having 22 to 23 percent Dalit votes, BSP can sail through with the help of Muslim votes or else the same scenario can emerge that was seen in 2014 (Lok Sabha polls),” she said. Punters widely believe that it will be critical for the Bahujan Samaj Party to consolidate Muslim and Dalit votes in the upcoming elections, given that the two communities account for 40 percent of the state's population. During the speech, the BSP chief took her usual potshots at the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Samajwadi Party. Before her public address, the BSP remained one of the few parties not to engage with the BJP on the Indian Army’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control. On Sunday, Mayawati made her reasons clear. She appears conscious of not letting the BJP gain from the “nationalist” narrative it has created following the surgical strikes across the Line of Control in Kashmir. “Natakbazi on surgical strikes by the BJP is to divert the attention of people from its failure to perform on the promises made by it during the run up to 2014 elections,” she remarked. She accused the BJP of extracting political gain from the recent surgical strikes on terror launch pads. For reasons best known to the BJP, its leaders have decided to turn a swift strategic and tactical win for New Delhi into a national event sponsored by the party, while denouncing people in the opposition as traitors. The BJP has indulged in petty politics over the surgical strikes by putting up hoardings of the military operation along with pictures of its local leaders in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
Of course, no Mayawati-sponsored attack on the BJP is complete without accusations that religious and caste minorities have been at the receiving end of the Modi government. Along these lines, however, she opened another line of attack against the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Congress. She cautioned the Muslim community that voting for SP or Congress would only help the BJP and sought their support “to stop” the saffron party. For the past two and a half decades, the SP has stood on the shoulders of the Yadav and Muslim community for their electoral success. But in the first Assembly elections since the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, questions have been raised about the party’s ability to protect the Muslim community from the wrath of Hindutva forces. What undermined the SP’s position within the Muslim community further was the pathetic state of refugee camps, following the riots. The community received little assurances that those displaced could safely go back home to their homes. In the 2014 general elections, the SP saw the fragmentation of its Muslim vote, paving the way for the BJP’s grand success in the state. Can Mayawati cash in on this perceived sense of disaffection within the Muslim community? Unlike her previous rallies, the BSP chief also took the time to take on the Congress, following Rahul Gandhi’s Kisan Yatra in the state, which concluded last week. “Congress does not have a <g data-gr-id="35">vote</g> base, and voting for it will also benefit the BJP,” she said.
But to merely equate Mayawati’s entire campaign strategy to a consolidation of the Dalit and Muslim vote is short-sighted and simplistic. In 2007, she came to power on the back of an attempt to spread out beyond her traditional constituencies into Other Backward Class and Brahmin voter bases. Out of the 403 tickets distributed by the BSP for the Assembly elections this time, over 100 have gone to Muslims, over 50 to Brahmins, another 50 to Thakurs, Vaishyas, and other upper castes, and the remaining 200 to Dalits and OBCs. An attempt to consolidate a Muslim-Dalit vote base is just another strategy devised to secure her comeback to the seat of power in UP. However, beyond the politics of identity, Mayawati has so far failed to project anything substantial to the voters. Despite the perfidies of individual elements within the party, the ruling SP has embarked on the modernisation of the police and its impact has been felt in urban pockets. The SP government has also built large-scale infrastructure projects, especially in the past two years. Laying strong emphasis on the infrastructure sector, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav presented a supplementary budget of Rs 19,824 crore in August 2015.