New Delhi: Her rock
solid Dalit support may still be intact. But with charges of
corruption and poor governance enveloping her, Chief Minister
Mayawati may find the going tough in Uttar Pradesh, say political
activists and pundits.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is determined to retain power it
bagged in the country's most populous state five years ago on its
own, stunning foes and friends alike. It will be no bed of roses
this time, though.
For starters, there is disenchantment, widely referred to as
anti-incumbency. Mayawati and government are battling corruption
allegations too. Even admirers say she seems to have withdrawn
from the people she claims to represent.
Then there is the opposition factor. The Samajwadi Party is
charged up, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is determined to
regain the support base it has lost while the Congress wants to
make a spectacular comeback.
"She may not win a majority this time," political analyst N.
Bhaskara Rao told IANS, referring to Mayawati, the four-time chief
minister of Uttar Pradesh.
According to him, neglect of the basic "bijli-sadak-pani"
(electricity, road, water) issues cast doubts on her ability to
win an outright majority from the staggered seven-phase election
starting Feb 8.
Rao admits that Mayawati's decision to deny tickets to a third of
her legislators and sacking of 16 ministers over corruption
charges shows she has strong decision-making capabilities.
But the 2007 magic -- "social engineering" -- has more or less
broken down. Compared to five years ago, Brahmins and other upper
castes don't seem to be backing her that enthusiastically.
Badri Narayan, an expert on Dalit issues with the Allahabad-based
Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Social Sciences, says that
Mayawati's popularity was declining.
"Her Dalit vote bank is intact but sections of Muslims, Brahmins
and Kurmis are shifting towards the Congress," Narayan told IANS.
In his view, though Mayawati has an image of an iron lady, the
distance between her and her party workers has increased over the
past five years.
"As a person she is good, understands rural society, and has
politically proved herself many times. But her exclusivity is
going against her," said Narayan.
After her political baptism in 1977 by BSP founder Kanshiram,
school teacher Mayawati had a meteoric rise in the party. She was
made his heir in 2001 and became the party chief two years later.
In 1995, Mayawati created history by becoming India's first Dalit
woman chief minister in Uttar Pradesh.
It was a short stint. She returned to power in March 1997 for
another brief stint, and again was chief minister May to August
2002. She finally became chief minister on her own right in May
But even as her ambitions soared, the 2009 Lok Sabha election
checkmated her. The BSP won just 19 seats, far below the 40 it
hoped to capture. That was in part due to a Congress comeback,
thanks to Ranul Gandhi.
Today too, Rahul Gandhi is going hammer and tongs against Mayawati.
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)