How Handshake With Akhilesh Creates a Big Social Engineering Headache for Mayawati
The alliance has been formed between two leaders, and a major challenge for both the parties will be to take the message to the grassroots-level worker.
SP president Akhilesh Yadav greeting BSP supremo Mayawati.
The Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party Gathbandhan has been formed but that is just the beginning. The real preparation has to take place at the grassroots level — which is rife with competition and contradictions — and in battling the BJP machinery that is working on wooing non-Jatav Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs.
On January 12, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav jointly declared this alliance. According to the agreement between these two parties, SP-BSP each will contest on 38 seats and they will not field their candidates in Rai Bareli and Amethi parliamentary constituencies. Also, two seats have been reserved for other small parties such as the Rashtriya Lok Dal and Nishad Party who may later join this alliance.
The alliance has been formed between two leaders, and a major challenge for both the parties will be to take the message to the grassroots-level worker. This involves preparing voters of both the parties to transfer each other’s orienting cadres to work with each other. The machinery should work in coordination — both the parties may need to disseminate the message about this alliance and convince the voters about why they should transfer their votes to the parties, against whom they voted for almost 25 years.
The SP and BSP have to present a bigger aim in front of their votebanks that may help dilute their everyday conflicts, jealousies and contestations. In fact, it is the alliance that needs to resolve major social contradictions that lie between Dalits and OBCs.
First, in many parts of Uttar Pradesh, OBCs have emerged as a landed community and Dalits work in their fields as landless labourers. The second cause of this social contradiction is that after Independence, a section of Dalits emerged as service class, acquired a few acre of lands and are now leading prosperous lives. That may be the cause of dominant section among forward castes and OBCs turning against Dalits.
Leading sections of both the communities may have competitive and conflicting interests against each other. Both the parties need to resolve these contradictions through a convincing discourse. Mayawati and BSP may also face major challenge in transferring their Dalit vote base to the SP.
There is no homogeneous Dalit social group that exists in Uttar Pradesh. In UP, 65 castes comes under the Dalit category. Among them, Jatavs are a major Dalit group. There is dissent and jealousy among a few Dalit castes such as Pasee, Mushhars (rat-pickers), Dhobi, Hari, beggars against the Jatavs because they see the latter as an emerging dominant community among them which is swallowing most of the benefits meant for the entire Dalit community.
In the 2014 election, the BJP mobilised a section of non-Jatavs in its favour. The BJP campaign is now focusing on proving this alliance as a Jatav-Yadav alliance and not OBC-Dalit. The major challenge for Mayawati in the upcoming election will be this perception battle.
Mayawati to check fragmentation of votes
Mayawati will have to create a check on possible fragmentation of Dalit votes in the favour of the BJP. The RSS and Sangh Parivar, through its ‘samrasta’ campaign and other activities, made a dent in the Dalit communities. The BJP has also organised many caste conferences in the recent past mostly in Dalit and OBC communities. The party is constantly working to achieve the notion of ‘Samagra Hindutva’ in reality, which is focusing on Dalits and OBCs under the fold of Hindutva.
Mayawati’s election strategy remained based on forging a ‘sarvajan’ alliance by including many non-Bahujan caste communities such as Brahmins, business communities and others. For that, she gave tickets in elections to many non-Bahujan castes. This time, she has a limited numbers of seats and has to divide them among various Dalits, OBCs, forwards and Muslims in what is clearly a very difficult task.
It will be not easy for Mayawati to influence Brahmins who worked as a major group in creating her ‘sarvajan’ chemistry because the SP-BSP tie-up is being projected as an OBC-Dalit alliance, which excludes forwards and upper castes in its very foundational perception. The BJP and Sangh Parivar are propagating this alliance as Jatav-Yadav in which Brahmins may not accept their marginal presence. This is a big challenge — bringing the ‘sarvajan’ alliance in favour of the BSP.
The party can focus on creating a dense social alliance among various Bahujan castes, which may be key for their success in this election. Mayawati has a task ahead to ensure the transfer of the entire Dalit base to the Samajwadi Party, creating Dalit unity in its favour and working to implement social engineering for achieving success in 2019.
(Badri Narayan is a Social Scientist at GB Pant Social Science Institute in Allahabad. Views are personal)
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