Chanting “Bharat ki barbaadi” at JNU and crying buckets for Kashmiri stone pelters didn’t work for the secular lobby. While the long term impact of sustained anti-national campaigning is certainly to be feared, the short term results are zero. So, for seculars, it was back to basics fanning good old fashioned caste wars and striking at the Achilles heel of Hindu society. Thus the made up narrative of “attacks on Dalits”. If it was “Church Attacks” in early 2015 and “intolerance” in late 2015, the weapon of choice before UP elections is “attacks on Dalits”.
It began with the Una thrashing of Dalits in Gujarat by “Gau Rakshaks” where the seculars who planned the conspiracy even forgot to make sure that all the “Gau Rakshaks” were even Hindus, let alone people from “upper”castes.
But the media decided to go in for the kill when one Dayashankar Singh of the BJP (never heard of this guy before) made some horrible remarks against Mayawati. Even though his remarks did not talk about caste either in express or implied form, it was enough for the media and Mayawati to jump on. Personally, I would say this is totally fair game. It’s Politics 101. If a Dalit woman leader of the BJP had been abused the same way, I would have recommended the exact same course of action for the BJP.
But victimhood is a card that has to be played delicately. The BJP reacted very quickly, kicking out Dayashankar Singh even before he had time to close his mouth. It was fair for Mayawati to try and milk the issue, with her party workers arranging massive protests at the Ambedkar statue in Lucknow. Personally, I actually wouldn’t call them massive protests, I saw the pictures, I saw the crowds, they didn’t look that big to me. Any political party worth its salt should be able to arrange a crowd like that. But, well, the media decided to call them massive protests and I am ready to go along with that. So, let’s say they were “massive” protests.
Mayawati however, faces FOUR barriers in trying to milk this issue:
(1) Dayashankar Singh is nobody. Nobody has ever heard of him before. Maya is looking for a Mohan Bhagwat moment in UP, but Bhagwat was RSS boss. Nobody in BJP could have disowned him. Trying to equate BJP with some Dayashankar Singh, who was unknown till last week, is simply a bridge too far.
(2) The BJP has acted remarkably swiftly against Dayashankar Singh, kicking him out of the party promptly. Maya, in fact, has been struggling to figure out what punishment to demand for the guy. They threw him out of the party within 4 hours of the comment. Arun Jaitley himself personally apologized to Mayawati. Maya can’t hold BJP responsible for UP police not arresting the man. She sounded a bit desperate when she said BJP should have filed an FIR against Daya.
(3) There is a whole 7 months to go for the election. How much is 7 months? Well, it was 7 months from Sept 2013 to Apr 2014! That’s how much. Now think of everything that happened in those 7 months. It’s too long to sustain anger against one small BJP leader who was kicked out within a day from the party.
(4) This one may be the most significant. Mayawati needs Upper caste votes too! Has she forgotten that? UP is not Bihar. Upper castes account for a solid 25% in UP, which is in fact more than the Dalit vote of 22%. In fact, a Brahmin-Dalit alliance brought Maya to power on her own in 2007. If she wants to win again, she has to rebuild that alliance.
It is understandable that Mayawati was alarmed at the saffronisation of Dalits. With her own core votebank slipping badly and defection after defection hitting her party, her first instinct was to defend her base and then worry about incremental alliances. But her extreme arrogance has come in her way:
Behenji, or should I say “Deviji”, I assure you this Devi comment will come back to haunt you. If you think today’s Dalits will vote for you because you are a “Devi”, you couldn’t be more wrong. If you think Dalits will not hold you accountable and ask what you have done for them, you are sorely wrong.
Dr. Praveen Patil was right when he pointed out that Mayawati is the only politician in India who has not changed her election style in over 20 years. Staying true to fundamentals and playing to strengths is a good thing, but Mayawati will find out that refusing to make a single change in 2 decades is silly. She has learned nothing from her 2014 disaster, where all she did was ask for the caste of Ramdev baba and Narendra Modi.
BJP got an opening when a mob of BSP workers led by Naseemuddin Siddiqui chanted this, demanding that Dayashankar’s 12 year old daughter be presented for a gangrape:
And it surely helps the BJP that the main culprit here is Naseemuddin Siddiqui. Sorry, Mayawati ji, this is fair game too. You sent a peaceful leader to talk in such a disgusting fashion about a 12 year old girl, BJP will also seize this opportunity. The fact that you are actually blaming the 12 year old girl and accusing her of not condemning her father …my god!
She is in Class 7 Mayawati ji! What do you want from her? You really think that Dalits, or anyone for that matter will appreciate peaceful members of your party demanding that a 12 year old girl be presented to them for gangrape?
The BJP which had been lying low for two days, has finally sensed a break. The optics of Naseemuddin Siddiqui and peaceful mob vs 12 year old girl can’t possibly look good for the BSP. The BJP will be playing a high stakes, high reward game today in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP will raise the pitch against Naseemuddin Siddiqui in its campaign today, titled:
“Beti ke samman mein, BJP maidan mein” (BJP in the field, fighting for the honor of daughters)
It’s a risky move and is fraught with the exact same risks that Mayawati’s plan had. The BJP ‘s victimhood campaign has to toe a very fine line. It needs to be a carefully calibrated attack with the peaceful BSP leader Naseemuddin Siddiqui as its main target, sparing Mayawati herself. The slogan of “Beti ke samman mein” fits in very neatly with the love jihad subtext of the BJP in rural Uttar Pradesh. The campaign here needs to be clinical, short and sharp. Stretch it too long and BJP will look anti-Dalit.
But its a bold move. I really hope Shah is keeping a steadfast watch on this. If they can turn this around into a Hindu girl vs peaceful mob thing, it will pay tremendous political dividends. If they mess up the messaging, this will hurt big time. High stakes, high risks and everything to play for…