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Mayawati's rout is Congress' gain

By Jyoti Malhotra
May 16, 2009 16:38 IST
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The Bahujan Samaj Party's rout in Uttar Pradesh only means one thing: Never take the people for granted.

In the kasbahs, mohallas, villages and towns of UP over the last few weeks, it was clear that Chief Minister Mayawati's unparalleled power was likely to be dented because of the manner in which she sought to redefine the state in her own image.

But the thought that she could do so badly few could have imagined.

After she swept the assembly polls two years ago, Mayawati felt she could do no wrong. In the name of empowering the Dalit population, Mayawati abandoned the state to turn Lucknow into another Rome.

The number of statues in sandstone that are still being unveiled in the state, in her own likeness as well as those of Dalit leaders Kanshi Ram and Bhimrao Ambedkar, interspersed with elephants, is indicative of the Romanesque disdain with which she treated her people.

In the newest park, cheek-by-jowl in the new suburb of Gomtinagar in Lucknow, on the other side of the Gomti river, two enormous domed buildings are coming up, and the rumour is that they are paved with titanium.

If you speak to anyone within 150-odd kms of Lucknow about Mayawati's rule, how she was doing in the state, you got only one answer: "Woh to Lucknow mein pathhar pees rahi hain, (She is grinding the stone in Lucknow)," they said, referring to the vulgar display of wealth associated with the building of her statues.

But there is another reason why Mayawati has lost so badly and the Congress has done so much better. The Dalit leader's "sarvajan samay, sarvajan hitay," turn of phrase, meaning 'all castes are empowered equally,' a magic slogan that she used with such devastating effect in the assembly polls, didn't really translate on the ground this time.

Mayawati's rainbow coalition of Brahmins, Dalits, middle castes like Vaishyas and Muslims, that brought her to power two years ago in Lucknow was not able to neutralise the overt conspicuous consumption of wealth that was seen as personal aggrandisement.

The people of Uttar Pradesh clearly felt that Mayawati's reform agenda was only directed at herself, not for the people of the state.

The anti-Mayawati vote, instead, has benefitted the Congress party, which is why it has done so well. In fact, Congress leaders themselves seem totally surprised by the show of hands in their favour -- even though favourites like Salim Shervani (the five time MP from Badaiyon) and Begum Noor Bano from Rampur have lost this election.

Rahul Gandhi's decision, supported by party general secretary Digvijay Singh and others, that the Congress should fight independently from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has been redeemed. Although it must be said that the Congress, so nervous about winning in both states, didn't have the courage to field candidates to fight all 80 seats in UP. The Congress party fielded only 68 candidates.

One major reason the Samajwadi Party did not do much better was because the Muslims did not vote en bloc in favour of Mulayam Singh Yadav, because of his association with Kalyan Singh, the man they hold responsible for bringing down the Babri Masjid in 1992.

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Jyoti Malhotra