Absent or present? Mayawati as active as she needs to be, says BSP
Famously hands-off between elections, Mayawati reacted sharply to Union minister Amit Shah’s jibe recently that it was about time she started campaigning. However, party leaders say, the BSP chief is in no hurry to hit the ground as yet.
As the BJP, Samajwadi Party and Congress hold public meetings, road shows, yatras and marathons -— though these may get curtailed now due to Covid — Mayawati continues to remain absent from the scene. Party leaders, however, insist that this does not mean she is not involved, and that she is camping in Lucknow and taking stock with party cadre daily.
BSP sources say Mayawati has been meeting party leaders, from declared candidates and sitting MLAs, to district and zonal coordinators, state office-bearers and heads of bhaichara committees, which have been constituted to reach out to different sections, including Muslims, Brahmins, backward classes, Scheduled Castes and others.
The BSP chief usually calls senior functionaries to her office, and together they hold virtual meetings with district-level functionaries. Sources said the party didn’t want grassroots workers to waste time travelling to Lucknow and back when elections were so close. So the zonal coordinators and state-level office-bearers reportedly hold meetings with booth presidents and bhiachara committees, and convey the ground report to the top.
BSP sources said Mayawati tracks granular details such as how the party poll strategy is being implemented, to how many new members have joined the party.
In response to Shah’s remarks, Mayawati had said the BSP did not have the kind of money the BJP had to go around canvassing, and that the party had its own way. “The public money of the government exchequer” was being used by the BJP, she said.
However, this low-key approach is not new for Mayawati. During the 2017 Assembly elections, for example, she addressed over two dozen rallies, and in each, candidates of an entire mandal unit were brought to the meeting.
The BSP chief does not even release a manifesto, arguing that she believes more in “doing work than making tall promises”. A few days ago, she put out a folder of works done by past BSP governments and directed party workers to distribute that in every village and town across the state, with the message that if the BSP returns to power in 2022, it would strive for development and public welfare on the same pattern.
Mayawati continues to stick by this approach despite a churn that has seen a series of senior party leaders and MLAs leave for the SP and BJP.
Asked when Mayawati would start campaigning, BSP spokesperson Faizan Khan said: “While other parties start organisational activities only near the elections, the BSP keeps working on the ground for the entire five years between elections. Currently, it is reviewing its previous works. Behenji is monitoring organisational activities daily.”
Khan added that the BSP chief would step out to hold meetings, but going by “the guidelines that the Health Ministry and Election Commission will issue in view of the Covid pandemic and the new Omicron variant”.
Sources said she is likely to hold common rallies of various candidates at one place nearer to polling dates, as she did in the past elections.
A BSP leader said, “Behenji is more confident than the SP because the BSP’s vote share has remained significant even though the party has lost seats. Its vote share in the 2007 Assembly elections, when it won an absolute majority, with 206 seats, was 30.43%. It came down to 25.95% in 2012 (when it won 80 seats), but even in the 2017 elections, when the party won just 19 seats, its vote share stood at 22.23%. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, which the party contested in alliance with the SP and RLD, the party won 10 seats, but with a vote share of 19.42%. We have maintained a minimum vote share of around 20%.”
Meanwhile, as earlier, Mayawati’s trusted lieutenants are touring in her stead, across UP and other poll-bound states like Punjab and Uttarakhand. They include party national general secretary S C Mishra, vice-president Anand and party national coordinator Akash Anand.
Mishra, Mayawati’s lieutenant of old, the most prominent BSP leader after her and a key Brahmin face, has been holding ‘Prabuddha Varg’ Sammelans aimed especially at the Brahmin community. In the past month he has also held public meetings in reserved seats across UP.
Meanwhile, in a party where Mayawati has been the be-all and end-all, Mishra’s family seems to have made space for itself. If Mishra’s wife Kalpana has been addressing ‘Prabudha Mahila Vichar Gosthi’ and ‘BSP mahila sammelans’ across the state on issues of “women security and honour”, his son Kapil has been holding ‘BSP Yuva Samvad’.