Mayawati Image Credit: PTI


  • The merciless number of the vote share that her party polls has been eroding steadily
  • Mayawati has always practised transactional politics

The many statutes that Mayawati, chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), built in tribute to herself have an imperious mien. A woman with short hair always holding a hand bag. The Supreme Court recently said Mayawati should make back payments for the statues, which have been built on tax payers’ money, during the four times Mayawati has been the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the first Dalit woman to hold the all-important job in the state that has the maximum number of Lok Sabha seats: 80.

Mayawati, in her reply to the Supreme Court, argued that the statues were a symbol of Dalit empowerment and upliftment and she should not be forced to pay for them.

The merciless number of the vote share that her party polls has been eroding steadily. From once being seen as a champion of all the marginalized, Mayawati’s social coalition has melted down to just her own community, the Jatavs, who in many seats preferred to vote for the BJP.

The “historic alliance” she had forged with her arch enemy, the Samajwadi Party and its chief Akhilesh Yadav, has been unilaterally consigned to the dustbin of history by the mercurial Mayawati. This despite the fact that she moved from zero to ten seats in the 2019 elections because of the alliance.

Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati
Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav waves at supporters at an election rally for Lok Sabha polls, in Varanasi, on May 16, 2019. Image Credit: PTI

And even now the SP and BSP alliance remains the best bet to take on the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. It is an article of faith with Mayawati that her vote bank is “transferable” to any party she aligns with while they can’t transfer votes to her. This is currently as unrealistic as her prime ministerial ambitions.

This time around, the SP did transfer votes to her candidates. Mayawati’s base melted away.

And till she actually does a granular analysis of why, instead of the knee jerk breaking up of the alliance, she will continue to bleed voters away.

Mayawati, after publicly blaming the SP, also appointed her brother and nephew to plum party posts. This was a 180 degree turn from her public pledge of not allowing family members to take control of the BSP.

Mayawati has always practised transactional politics. It is an open secret that candidates get a party ticket after a suitable offering, but her style of only emerging at the time of elections holding all party meetings in her imposing Delhi and Lucknow mansions is now beginning to jar.

How can you claim to be the messiah of the downtrodden when you never hit the ground for any social campaign?

A Mayawati public meeting is unique. She is the only leader on stage and after alighting from a helicopter reads out a speech from a paper, never making eye contact, and leaves.

But in the Modi era of selfies and theatrics her style appears outdated to the voters. This time around Yadav appeared totally deferential to her and risked the wrath of his own voters and father Mulayam Singh Yadav who is now busy telling him - I told you so about the alliance.

From nursing prime ministerial ambitions, Mayawati is now in competition with Yadav and Yogi Adityanath to be chief minister of Uttar Pradesh again. And Uttar Pradesh is back to being a four-cornered contest if you count the comatose Congress which suits the BJP brilliantly.

Mayawati had prevailed and nearly bullied Yadav to ensure that the Congress was kept out of the alliance. Even this decision cost the alliance nearly ten seats when every seat counted as the Congress hurt their vote share.

A leader with blinkers?

But Mayawati will never accept a misstep. It is always the other parties fault. Mayawati also has a similar dismissive attitude towards the newer Dalit movements and leaders. Mayawati attacked the Bhim army Chief Chandrasekhar Azad, who styles himself as “Ravan” as being an agent of the RSS. While Azad did start out as an ABVP activist even Mayawati has allied with the BJP to form the government in Uttar Pradesh.

Mayawati has snubbed the Bhim army and wants nothing to do with it. The young Dalit voters, however, have a strong connect with it.

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Mayawati’s adamant refusal to even moderate her arrogant style is now yielding her diminishing returns from those in whose name she does her politics.

So what next for Mayawati?

If she sticks to her obdurate refusal to change her politics despite she will be stuck at the historical marker - four time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. It is doubtful she can make it to a fifth term forget about being prime minister.

Mayawati seems as frozen in time as her numerous statues. A symbol of empowerment that could not evolve.

Swati Chaturvedi shirttail, Swati Chaturvedi intro, Swati Chaturvedi
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