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Mayawati: Is She Really Destined for a Larger Role in Indian Politics?

Mayawati, a hindi speaking dalit woman managed to secure a simple majority to become a Chief Minister of UP the largest state of India, a state that has produced most number of Prime Ministers of India. She is now eyeing a larger role and had reportedly demanded to be declared the Prime Ministerial Candidate of the Third Front. She could still end up on the Prime Ministers Chair given that the country is heading for fractured verdict. Her party the BSP has risen phenomenonly and is now trying to expand its reach beyond UP. It recently one a couple of assembly seats in Delhi, but remains largely a marginal player. Given its rise, many political commentators are predicting that BSP is soon going to be a dominant force through the country.I beg to disagree with that and be presenting my counter arguments in the rest of the article.
My First point is that there seems to a political saturation in our country. Political parties throughout India have consolidated their positions. If we analyze of the political upheavals in the last decade, there aren't too many states where the major political parties have changed. For instance, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh,Delhi still has only two major players Congress and BJP; Kerela still has LDF vs UDF, Tamil Nadu still has AIADMK vs DMK with PMK, MDMK, Congress and BJP being marginal players. Maharashtra has seen minor re-allignment with NCP first breaking up and then allying with Congress. On the ground, the state still has two major players both alliances.
So which are the states having new players? These are Orissa, Karnataka, Bihar, UP and West Bengal. Let us look closely why in these places new players were allowed. In Orissa, Naveen Patnaik split the erstwhile Janta Dal to ally with BJP. Karnataka used to witness direct contest between erstwhile Janata Dal and Congress but the split in JD led to growth of BJP. Bihar again has a similar story. Leaders from JD split into JD(U) and RJD. In West Bengal, Mamta split the state Congress to create TMC and hoped to occupy the non-Left political space in the state.
Now comes UP. In UP, BSP wasn't really a major player and did well in reserved seats only. In the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, BSP won just 5 seats out of which one was Mayawati. It all changed when in 1996 Congress under Narasimha Rao decided to ally with BSP. Congress fought on just 125 seats leaving around 300 to BSP. This meant transfering of Congress vote to the BSP, and also that the national party was accepting a minor role in the state politics. Mayawati hasn't looked behind while Congress hasn't been able to regain ground in the state. Subsequently Mayawati has even wooed the upper castes and with the BJP collapsing in the state, BSP has effectively replaced it as one the major player in the state.
In all the above cases, one thing is common - the rise of a new player meant that an existing player had to go. It is no wonder that the BJP hasn't been able to even open its account in the Kerela assembly despite trying for almost two decades. In Tamil Nadu, PMK and MDMK continue to remain marginal players because both AIADMK and DMK remain strong. With Karunanidhi ageing and there is a posibility of a split because there are 3 players within the DMK - Stalin, Stalin's elder brother and the Marans. Actor Vijaykanth started a new party DMDK but failed to have any impact. This is because there isn't enough political space for a new player. NT Ramarao created his own political party and became the Chief Minister in less than year. But that was 1982 and Chiranjeevi is unlikely to repeat that. The recent surveys of CNN-IBN just gave him 7% vote share.
Just look at things from a logical point of view. If I am an aspiring politician from Kerela, I would rather go with either LDF or UDF than go with BJP. So it is quite evident that BJP in Kerela cannot attract local talented leaders. Therefore, I would like to conclude my first point by saying BSP cannot emerge as a major national player unless one of the two BJP or Congress has a major split.
My second point about why BSP cannot emerge as a national force is internal. BSP as a party has remained undemocratic with Mayawati being the sole leader. To rise to a stature of a major nation party, BSP needs to reform itself by giving more space to other leaders. But is the party and more importantly is Mayawati ready for this. BSP only ideology seems to be dalit vikas, but beyond that there isn't much. To be a more broadbased party like Congress or BJP it needs to reinvent itself. Merely inventing a slogan of 'Sarvajan Samaj isn't going be sufficient.
So far we have only seen the rise of Mayawati. But she is trying to rise too fast without consolidating her existing position, which is a recipe for disaster. In the last assembly elections, BSP 30% of the votes, giving a clear 3-4% lead over its nearest rival SP.In the current parliamentary elections, she can hope to maintain that with rising support of Muslims, largely because of the community has switched sides after Kalyan Singh joined SP. But that does not guarantee her an unlimited rule in the state.
She has used every trick in the book to increase her tally. She has allied with almost everyone, and invited almost everyone. She has even accomodated a man who tried to molest and kill her in 1996. This is a major problem for her because her MLA's are not there because of any ideology but because they are powerhungry. BSP has suffered maximum number of splits largely because others found it easy to woo her MLA's. She has also given seats to the Ansaris from Azamgarh who are well known for their criminal record.
So far she had never ruled the state for a full term and thus could hit at her rivals for non-performance. However, in the last 12 months she has hardly done anything significant while being the Chief Minister. She has spent more time outside the state like campaigning in Karnataka elections. Caste based politics do not guarantee anything and one needs to back it up with development work. Moreover, both BJP and Congress are alarmed by its rise and neither of them is going to repeat the mistake of Congress in 1996.
Here is the most likely scenario (according to me). 2009 Lok Sabha elections throw up a hung Parliament. Mayawati becomes Prime Minister of a Third Front Govt. formed after getting outside support of Congress. Congress is likely to withdraw support within 12-18 months because it would not allow BSP to make any gains. I am pretty sure that they will find some excuse for withdrawing support. By that time the BSP Govt. in UP will be 3 year old and given its past record, its likely suffer a heavy defeat in the 16th Lok Sabha elections which would most likely take place in 2010. Since West Bengal is also headed for polls in 2011, a 2010 election would mean that an anti-incumbancy facing Left too isn't a major player in the final count.


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