Lucknow: Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati took everyone by “surprise” when she declared her last minute support for the Congress party in Uttarakhand, thereby also taking some credit for providing a fresh lease of life to the beleaguered Harish Rawat government.
The four-time former UP chief minister, who is known for her ruthlessly practiced politics of opportunism, went to town proclaiming that she extended the support of her two party MLAs to the Congress because she wanted to “keep the communal forces (read BJP) at bay.”
The move led all and sundry to assume that this was a precursor to some kind of understanding that she would possibly strike with the Congress in poll-bound states such as Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. As soon as this perception hit the headlines in Lucknow and Delhi, Mayawati promptly got her media managers to issue a long and verbose clarification to affirm that she had no plans of any kind of pre-poll alliance with anyone.
Spelt out at least four times in the press release, signed by “Jaarikarta” (Issuing authority), her message was loud and clear – “The BSP will go to polls in Punjab and UP entirely on its own.” Clearly, the idea behind this clarification was to keep her options open for a “deal” with the BJP on a future date. After all, in three of the four times she ruled India’s most populous state, it was in collaboration with the BJP, public claims like keeping “communal forces away” notwithstanding.
Anyone who understands Mayawati and the way she plays the political game would have known on day one itself that her support for the Congress in Uttarakhand had little to do with her much hyped “communal forces” chant. Consider the timing of the decision to support Harish Rawat – when it was more than amply evident that the scenario was advantage Rawat as the courts had barred each of the nine Congress rebels from voting. Her party’s support was of no consequence at that juncture, because Rawat already had the numbers in the assembly. Therefore, it could not have been anything more than the politics of opportunism that prompted Mayawati to take that step.
Mayawati had seen the writing on the wall soon after the apex court ruled out any possibility of the rebel Congress MLAs getting a chance to vote. Under the circumstances, it was politically expedient on her part to throw her support behind Rawat, who was already on a winning wicket.
But then, to ensure that all doors were kept open, she immediately issued a clarification. After all, it was the BJP whose support had propelled her to the chief minister’s chair for the first time, when she had shocked Mulayam Singh Yadav by pulling the rug from under his feet in 1995 . Her two subsequent stints at the chief minister were also attributable to BJP’s backing. Though she managed to ride to power for the fourth time in 2007 entirely on her own strength, the altered social moods and equations have undoubtedly weakened her self-confidence of repeating the feat in March 2017.
Hence, in the event of a hung house, even if she were to emerge as the single largest party (which many political pundits were already predicting), she needs to make it clear that she is not seen as aligned with any single political party, and certainly not the Congress. With the CBI sword still dangling over her in the disproportionate assets case, she would naturally want to keep enough room to make peace with the Modi administration. She couldn’t be unaware of speculation that the Modi government dangled the CBI sword over the Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh which prompted him to pull out of the grand alliance in Bihar, ditching Nitish Kumar just on the eve of the last assembly elections there.
Even as it is being widely predicted that Akhilesh Yadav’s anti-incumbency will give Mayawati yet another chance in 2017, she is fully aware of changing ground realities. Political analysts are increasingly of the view that it may not be easy for her to repeat the social engineering she has tried in the past, through which she was able to rope in upper caste Brahmins to join her dalit bandwagon and give her a clear majority in 2007. Hence the need to keep away from any pre-poll commitments and to remain prepared to switch in any direction that could provide her an opportunity to rule UP once again.