SP-BSP Go All Out to Repair Yadav-Jatav Fault Lines, But Mulayam Question Remains X-Factor
In the last fortnight since the alliance was announced by the leaders of the two parties in Lucknow, over a 100 joint public meetings have been held by ground workers of the two parties in Etawah alone.
All of Etawah, stronghold of the Yadav family, is covered in huge billboards welcoming the SP-BSP alliance. (Photo: News18)
Etawah (UP): In his small office in Etawah, Gopal Yadav, Samajwadi Party’s Zila Adhyaksh (district president), takes us through list after list of numbers to prove his point about the solidity of gathbandhan.
“...now let’s look at academia. Of the 169 professorial vacancies reserved for SCs only 39 were filled in UP in BJP’s term, of 84 seats meant for STs only six were appointed; 304 seats were meant for OBCs and not even one was appointed. But nearly all unreserved professorial vacancies were filled.”
“Their party has systematically driven us out of the system, created stark economic strife... these are the reasons why this election required Dalits and Yadavs to unite. This is why this Lok Sabha will be a contest between the 15% and the 85%,” Yadav says, referring to the proportion of upper castes that he claims are now pit against the united force of have-nots.
The strength of his sentiment is evident across the walls of Etawah. All of Etawah, stronghold of the Yadav family, is covered in huge billboards welcoming the SP-BSP alliance. There are more posters put up by SP workers congratulating Mayawati on her birthday than those put up by BSP workers.
In the last fortnight since the alliance was announced by the leaders of the two parties in Lucknow, over a 100 joint public meetings have been held by ground workers of the two parties in Etawah alone. Joint public outreaches begin and end with ‘Jai Bheem Jai Samajwad’.
It’s been roughly 26 years since UP last saw an unprecedented political tie up between SP and BSP. And it is in Etawah where a sense of déjà Vu is felt most strongly. It was here back in November ‘91 when with the help of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Kanshi Ram won his first Lok Sabha poll.
Two years later both the parties united against BJP which was threatening to blow away all other parties on the back of Ram Janmabhoomi movement and Babri demolition.
‘Mile Mulayam Kanshi Ram, hawa mein ud gaye Jai Shri Ram’ was the defining slogan of that election. History was created. The BJP’s juggernaut was stopped. Can Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati repeat that?
Samajwadi Party’s Etawah district chief Gopal Goyal said the BJP has systematically driven Dalits and OBCs out of the system. (Photo: News18)
“Desh ko bohot jald pehla Dalit Pradhan Mantri milne waala hai [The country is soon going to get its first Dalit PM],” says Billu Jatav, a BSP worker. Billu and his friends believe that they are voting for the gathbandhan because when SP-BSP rout all other parties in UP, no hurdle will be left between Mayawati and the PM’s chair.
“Desh mein Mayawati, Pradesh mein Akhilesh [Mayawati for PM, Akhilesh as UP CM,” says Ravindra Gautam, a BSP supporter. “Abki baar behenji ki sarkar,” says Narendra Jatav, another BSP worker.
“Akhilesh ne Mayawatiji ka sammaan kiya hai. Unhe aage kiya hai to saaf hai ki wo bhi Mayawatiji ko Pradhan Mantri ke ruup mein dekhte hain [Akhilesh has given due respect to Mayawati, he’s promoting her, so it is quite natural that he also sees her as the future PM],” Virendra Singh Yadav, Etawah assembly constituency’s BSP in charge, says.
When asked about how he was able to make inroads in society, BSP founder Kanshi Ram in an interview had said, “I do not tell them that I will get them jobs or make them richer. I just tell them that I can ensure one little thing for the chamaars - and that is make them the rulers of this country. I tell them to have faith in me and that is all I say.”
While admitting that their alliance is a case of political expediency, Jatavs and Yadavs also express very different ideas about why they’re supporting the Gathbandhan and what they’re going to get out of it.
“What are we going to get if Modi and Yogi are dethroned. How will our life change?” asks a Dalit youth in village Chitbhawan, a few km from Etawah, which doesn’t get more than four hours of electricity in a day.
He says he will continue to vote for BSP and no one else till his friend breaks him the news about SP-BSP alliance. “Oh, so vote for SP will also go to BSP?” He considers the proposition for some time.
Another Dalit youth in the village says nothing has changed between the two communities over the last 14 days. “They [Yadavs] continue to mistreat us the way they always have. If anyone is telling you otherwise they are lying.”
A few hundred km away from Etawah, in Kasganj, a Dalit youth, scared of regular attacks by Yadavs and other OBC community members on Dalit grooms, had to seek police’s help for his wedding procession a couple of months ago. That man, Sanjay Jatav, is now a public figure who himself is batting for Jatav-Yadav bonhomie.
“Things are changing very quickly on ground. The communities are not adversaries anymore. We have come to seize power and we will do it,” says Sanjay who doesn’t shy away from expressing his own political ambition of getting a ticket to fight elections soon.
This is how a Yadav ground worker of the SP, not willing to be quoted, reads the tea leaves, “It is tough to say anything right now. There are old Mulayam loyalists who will wait for his signal - whether he blesses his brother Shivpal or his son Akhilesh - before elections. Many SP leaders have joined his party. He will surely eat into SP’s vote-share.”
Managing the rebels during ticket distribution is going to be another big challenge before the party he says. “The other question is whether Yadav-vote will get transferred to the BSP, especially in Yadav dominated areas if BSP candidates are fielded from them. It’s not going to be that easy.”
Caste fault lines aggravated through laws like the SC/ST atrocities act under which many Yadavs have been jailed for crimes committed against Dalits, could also widen beyond repair if the state witnesses one or more such cases in the days to come.
“Mayawati may have forgotten what happened to her at the guest-house but we have not,” says a Jatav in village Bilram. He has always been a BJP supporter and the Gathbandhan is not shaking his loyalties away.
In the same interview, quoted above, Kanshi Ram had also said this - “My strategy is simple. I do not want a stable government. If the government, whether at the Centre or in a state is stable, the BSP is weak and if the Government is unstable, the BSP emerges stronger. We have ensured a hung assembly to make the BSP stronger.”
Circumstances are not what they were in ‘93, after BSP had entered into the alliance with SP, when this interview was published. But the compulsions for coming together remain the same.
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