Maya back to drawing board, plots next political move for 2017

MayawatiBoxed into a political corner by successive electoral defeats, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati is back to the drawing board, plotting her next political move in Uttar Pradesh, where her writ once was the final word.

The shocking defeat by arch rival Samajwadi Party (SP) in the 2012 assembly elections followed by the blankout in the 2014 general elections have forced the Dalit leader to “realign herself to the changed realities in the state”, a close aide said, adding that ‘behen ji’ was now burning the proverbial midnight oil to stage a comeback.

With the state elections just a year and a half away, the four-time Uttar Pradesh chief minister is focussing on the state to win it back and the frequency of meetings with party cadres and senior leaders has gone up in the past few months.

Assisted by the likes of Brijesh Pathak, Satish Chandra Mishra, Ram Achal Rajbhar, Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Swamy Prasad Maurya, Mayawati is learnt to be “carefully pouring through the caste matrix” of the state and also trying to assess why she faced a rout at the hustings in the past few years.

“Our defeat in 2012 was apparent much before we went to the polls but the duck the party drew in 2014 jolted us into some serious introspection,” said a senior leader, who is part of the second-rung leadership Mayawati falls back on from time to time.

She has held more than three dozen review meetings since the humiliating defeat at the hands of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections where her “captive Dalit vote bank” was swayed away by the “tsunami of Narendra Modi”.

A senior Rajya Sabha party MP said that while the BSP chief had “gone into a dictatorial mode” during her last stint as the UP chief minister, Mayawati now was more “approachable and responsive”.

A Muslim BSP leader who unsuccessfully contested the last state assembly polls told that after the 2014 rout, the leader had shown traits of a loser which now were diminishing by every passing day.

“She exudes confidence now, she listens to us, has the ear to the ground and is all geared up for 2017,” said a close aide. She has already asked senior party leaders to ensure that the party organizational structure, largely defunct after a series of electoral reverses, is oiled and functional by June 30.

At a meeting of zonal coordinators and office bearers on Monday, she is reported to have assigned “tough deliverables and strict timelines” to party leaders. “We saw the combative behenji once again,” said a BSP leader from Kanpur after attending the meeting.

Mayawati has now asked party leaders to focus on micro-level booth management, something which the BJP did well in 2014 leading to its landslide victory in UP. Booth and sector committees were being formed and the party has asked for the cadres to be informed of “the injustice meted out to them under the Akhilesh Yadav regime”.

As second part of her strategy she has also asked party leaders to take on the BJP, which is a prickly issue for her, largely because her Dalit vote bank drifted to Modi. But all doesn’t seem to be going her way. In the past few months, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has successfully arrested the downslide of his party.

Charges of corruption and compromising on the party ideology as espoused by BSP founder and her mentor Kanshi Ram, desertion by her core team and a hostile state government may well be stumbling blocks in Mayawati’s scheme of things for future.