Lucknow: The continuous belligerence unleashed by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come as a strong signal about what the wily Dalit leader might be up to in the aftermath of Lok Sabha election results on May 23.
For three consecutive days, Mayawati issued statements criticising Modi and labelling him as anti-Dalit, ostensibly giving a clear signal to her supporters to stay away from the BJP.
Her comments also indicate a pattern wherein earlier, she avoided mounting sharp attacks on either the Congress or the BJP in the beginning of the election campaign, but as the polling process moved on, her criticism grew sharper first against the Congress and then against the BJP.
At the outset of the campaigning for the general election following her party’s alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP), Mayawati had been only routinely critical of the BJP, and had avoided any direct attack on the Congress. The SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, in fact, had been making statements sympathetic towards the Congress, with Rahul Gandhi even saying that he was not ‘upset’ with the SP or BSP for not including Congress in their alliance.
The SP and BSP had finalised their seat-sharing formula in January, keeping the Congress out of their alliance. In a sarcastic comment at a press conference in Lucknow on February 12, Akhilesh Yadav had said that Congress was already a part of the SP-BSP alliance and the seat sharing for the 2019 polls was finalised. “We have given them two seats to fight - Rae Bareli and Amethi,” Akhilesh Yadav had said. A rattled Congress had then retorted by saying that it had left seven seats for the SP-BSP alliance, naming those seats from where members of Yadav family were to contest, besides a few others.
To this, Mayawati had retorted by cautioning her supporters to be wary of the Congress which, according to her, was trying to “mislead” them by claiming to be a part of the SP-BSP alliance.
Since then, her attacks were directed more towards the Congress and even Akhilesh had to toe the line. But for the last couple of weeks, Mayawati has chosen to attack Modi more than the BJP, often bordering on personal comments. In her statements and election rallies she has been terming the BJP as anti-Dalit and has repeatedly alleged that Modi is not a “real” OBC. In fact at a joint SP-BSP rally, she went to the extent of saying that Mulayam Singh Yadav was the “real” OBC and Modi was a “fake” OBC.
Then, in response to Modi’s jibe over BSP support to Congress government in Rajasthan following the rape of a girl in Alwar, Mayawati went to the extent of saying that “married women in BJP were apprehensive of letting their husbands go close to Modi, as they feared he might leave them like he ‘abandoned’ his wife.” She also said Modi had abandoned his “innocent wife” for “political selfishness”. In the latest attack, she said that Modi was “unfit” to lead the nation as Prime Minister.
This crass attack on Modi is aimed at effectively putting an end to all speculation about a possible BJP-BSP tie-up after the results. In fact this possibility has been making the rounds in UP and elsewhere but the perceived tough challenge the SP-BSP alliance has given to the BJP in many places in UP has perhaps emboldened Mayawati to strike down this possibility.
Since the attacks have become more fierce prior to the last round of polling on May 19, it may also be related to the political situation in the 13 seats where voting is scheduled. Of these, only five seats are being contested by the BSP, the rest eight having gone to the SP as per the seat-sharing arrangement. In these five seats – Bansgaon, Salempur, Ghazipur, Ghosi and Deoria - Sadal Prasad from Bansgaon is a former minister in the former BSP government in UP, RK Kushwaha from Salempur is the state BSP president, and Afzal Ansari from Ghazipur is brother of jailed gangster-turned politician Mukhtar Ansari. BSP candidate from Ghosi is Atul Rai is an accused in a rape case and is on the run. The court has issued a look-out notice against him and his election campaign is being handled by his supporters.
Even though the SP-BSP alliance claims to be strong in terms of caste combination, Modi has been especially wooing the OBCs and Dalits by claiming to be poor and like one of them. Mayawati’s strident attack on Modi can be seen in this context, as an attempt to deride him.
All this while, the SP has refrained from targeting Modi in the manner that Mayawati has done. But by emerging as the opponent-in-chief against Modi, Mayawati has sent an impression among non-BJP, non-Congress parties that she alone has the nerve to take on Modi in this manner, and thus, most suitable to lead any front against Modi in the post-result scenario.