We can all agree on one thing: the demonetization announcement on Nov 8 has made politics nationwide go fluid. In particular, we still don’t know what the final battlelines will be. To be precise, we don’t know whether SP & Cong will ally.
Should the alliance happen, it will definitely strengthen the hand of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. But who knows what Rahul Gandhi is thinking, if anything at all.
We have always known that Rahul Gandhi is an outright idiot, but I cannot come up with a more stinging indictment of his leadership even if I tried. This February, it will be nearly 4 years since the Congress won a single election, with the exception of Puducherry. Come February and the Congress has a reasonable chance of winning Punjab. It has everything in Punjab… an NDA govt floundering under weight of incumbency, a clear leader and a clear agenda. Except that Rahul Gandhi is doing nothing at all to help out Capt. Amarinder Singh. I almost feel sorry for the Captain waging a lonely battle. The Congress brought in Prashant Kishor and then quarreled with him. Is PK still working for Amarinder or not? I don’t know if even the Congress party can answer this question.
From what I read, the quarrel with Prashant Kishor began because PK was making overtures to the SP leadership for an alliance, without official clearance from the Congress high command. Ok…so they got rid of PK, but now the same UP Congress leaders are bargaining for the same alliance with the same SP. Then, why did they get rid of PK? If there will be an alliance, why is Sheila Dikshit flying to Lucknow from Delhi today? Why is Rahul Gandhi starting the Congress campaign on Dec 19? Why did Sheila Dikshit, the so-called CM candidate, barely show up in Rahul’s kisan yatra? Basically, the right hand of the Congress has no idea what the left hand is doing.
But in all this, there is one party that is falling off the charts. It is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). And it is all the fault of party supremo Mayawati.
The BJP is setting the agenda in Uttar Pradesh right now, first due to surgical strikes and second due to demonetization. Akhilesh Yadav is trying a counter narrative with his own version of vikas and outreach to young aspirational voters. The Congress may find relevance as a junior ally of SP or go on to make everyone laugh. But what is BSP doing? What is the role of BSP in this election? What defines it?
Let’s see. BSP is opposing demonetization. But then, so is SP. Added to that, SP has some vikas to talk about. So what exactly is BSP offering to the voters? A xerox copy of a few pages from SP’s manifesto?
The core problem lies in the inflexibility of BSP Supremo Mayawati. Mayawati is campaigning for the 2017 Assembly election like it is still 1997. She is totally stuck in the past politics of “X Samaj + Y Samaj”.
Her big idea this time? Dalits + Muslims.
And her famed strategy is “chup chaap” (silent campaigning). Now this might resonate with jholawallahs like Yogendra Yadav, but not for the smartphone generation. Where is the glitz? Where is the buzz? Big Zero. This is why Mayawati was reduced to a big zero in 2014.
No significant investment by BSP in their online outreach or social media presence. They are stuck in the time warp where they think their voters don’t watch TV, can’t read newspapers or go online. They are badly wrong and they will pay a terrible price for this.
Mayawati does not realize that Indian elections have moved well past the arithmetic of caste. This does not mean caste is irrelevant. Caste is still the single biggest factor that determines a party’s core vote. But core votes are not enough to win elections. It has to be “caste plus”. In 2014, Narendra Modi had both “Hindutva plus” and “caste plus”. Modi campaigned on “vikas”, but there were the foot soldiers keeping the Hindutva constituency sufficiently energized. And Modi’s most lethal OBC card was played smartly and sparingly at just the right moments.
(Side note: The OBC card is Modi’s Brahmastra. It is underutilized by design and held in reserve. Remember BJPians, this is the card to be played in the darkest hour only, should the need arise some day).
But Mayawati continues with her “chup chaap” campaign of Dalit + Muslim arithmetic. She promises them nothing and demands support. In 2007, when she won the UP elections with a clear majority, I remember these were the exact words used by the CSDS analyst: Mayawati goes from rally to rally: promising nothing and demanding support.
That won’t work today. She might see herself as a “Deviji”, but young, impatient India is not shy to make even the gods work for a living. The elephant is poised to fall into a trap.
With two successive election defeats in Uttar Pradesh and 0 seats in the Lok Sabha, the BSP might be coming to an end in mid-2017. That’s when the game begins, with the entire Dalit vote in UP available for BJP to grab.