By Laxmi Murthy
Is the Mayawati phenomenon a thing of the past? Or is she still in the reckoning? Given that predictions abound regarding a lack of a decisive outcome to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, Shivam Vij sticks his neck out with his list of the “18 things we can say for sure” about one of the most important elections in recent times. “There is no Mayawati wave” he declares, calling her Dalit-Muslim alliance a failure. He also calls the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) the weakest player, but hedging his bets, concedes that it might be the proverbial “dark horse”. A wave could still come about, he prevaricates.
After Donald Trump won the Republican Party’s nomination, much analysis emerged, pointing out what the media had failed to see, with exhortations to get the ‘real’ picture. Yet, his astounding electoral victory about six months later was as much of a surprise for the media as for the public in general, as indeed for Trump himself.
It is precisely the inadequacies in understanding the electorate, particularly rural voters, that might turn up yet another surprise, says Radhika Ramaseshan in her analysis based on her travels in Western UP. “Largely ignored by the media, TV and print, until quite recently, Mayawati’s voters are speaking up at last. The BSP is in the fight in the rural seats in varying degrees,” she says.
Neha Dixit, in her in-depth profile of the BSP supremo takes us “Inside Mayawati’s battle for Uttar Pradesh” (Caravan February 1, 2017, Cover Story) and glimpse her mission to reclaim power in the state. Coming out of the shadow of her mentor Kanshi Ram, battling caste and gender discrimination by displaying her enormous political acumen, her story is one of sheer grit, determination and keen political sense. It remains to be seen whether her alliance-building skills, organisational prowess and mobilisation of Dalits across all sub-castes will yield results in this high stakes election.