The Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is doing all it can to revamp its image and gain popularity with the locals ahead of the 2022 state elections.
From a Brahmin outreach to a decision of ‘no more statues’, she’s doing all she can to regain lost ground.
Mayawati lost power in Uttar Pradesh in 2012 to rival Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Yadav. The BSP’s seats fell to 80, and vote share to 25.9 percent.
Her party hasn’t quite recovered lost ground since performing consistently poorly in state elections. In 2017, the party was able to bag only 19 seats with a vote share of 22.23 percent.
The Lok Sabha election has hardly offered much solace either. From 21 seats in 2009 to zero in 2014, and then 10 in 2019 when it was in an alliance with the SP, it’s been a bit of a tricky ride for Mayawati.
No Bahubalis, no mafia candidates
On Friday, Mayawati announced that the BSP will make efforts not to 'bahubali' (strongmen) or mafia candidates in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh polls. With that in mind, she announced that gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari would not be given a party ticket from Mau again.
BSP state president Bhim Rajbhar would contest from Mau seat, currently represented by Mukhtar Ansari who is lodged in a jail in Banda, with several criminal cases pending against him.
Incidentally, Mayawati's announcement comes days after Mukhtar Ansari's brother Sigbatullah Ansari joined the Samajwadi Party
Mayawati said the decision to not field criminal and mafia elements has been taken to meet people's expectations as she appealed to party leaders to keep this in mind while choosing candidates. "So that there is no problem in taking strict action against such elements once the government is formed."
She added, "Alongside ensuring 'a rule of law, by law', the BSP's resolve is to also change Uttar Pradesh's image now."
She said the BSP's should be known as the government that follows the philosophy of 'Sarvajan Hitay and Sarvajan Sukhay' (universal good).
Statues, memorials out
The BSP supremo has also promised a big change from her last stint as she announced that her party, if it comes to power, will focus on development and not on building statues and parks.
"We do not need to make any new monuments or parks in the name of those who were our guiding lights - we have already done it thok ke bhaav (wholesale) in our previous terms," Mayawati said on September 7, addressing a gathering in Lucknow.
"If I form the government again I will not concentrate on statues or memorials or parks but in governing the state to the best possible ability," she added to cheers that were loudest for this part of her 30-minute speech.
But, this is not the first time she has vowed to shun memorials dedicated to herself. The four-time chief minister had made a similar promise to voters in 2016, before the last state election.
During her rule (2007-2012), she got several memorials and parks constructed after 'Dalit icons in the state capital of Lucknow and other parts of the state despite widespread criticisms. She had also got her own statues installed at the memorials and parks.
According to the official sources, her government had spent over Rs 1,400 crore on the memorials, statues and parks.
The BSP chief has also whipped out her upper-caste card by announcing the launch.
She whipped out her upper-caste card by announcing the launch of Brahmin conventions, in a move that political analysts are viewing as her bid to return to the tried-and-tested social engineering formula that propelled her to power in 20067.
The BSP chief said that the decision to organise Brahmin conventions followed atrocities inflicted on the community by the BJP dispensation in UP. "The community got swayed by tall promises and voted for the BJP in 2017. Now, Brahmins are worried and looking for an alternative," she said.
I assure Brahmin community that if we come to power in the next elections, we will ensure their security: BSP chief Mayawati
We should join more people from Brahmin community with us for the upcoming elections to form government with majority, similar to 2007, she adds
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) September 7, 2021
A source close to the BSP said the party is also planning to organise some more events other than Brahmin conventions to showcase a ‘Pro-Hindutva’ image.
“In 2007, BSP leaders gave the slogan ‘Brahmin shankh bajaega haathi chalta jaega’. May be some more slogans need to be introduced keeping this new strategy in mind,” added the source.
Now, we have to wait and see if Mayawati’s makeover finds resonance with the electorate and do the poll gods smile on her in the next elections.
With inputs from agencies