Manjhi, Paswan watch out: Mayawati may put NDA's Dalit vote in danger
- Mayawati has announced that BSP will be contesting the Bihar Assembly polls
- It is likely to put up candidates in all 243 seats
- The party has been making preparations since beginning of the year
- Mayawati plans to target the BJP in the election. BJP says it will have no impact
- Mayawati is a taller Dalit leader than the NDA\'s Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi
- Her entry will wean away a chunk of the NDA\'s Dalit vote
- This also places her as the main anti-BJP force in the run-up to the 2017 UP polls
- Mohan Bhagwat\'s statement that reservations need to be reviewed may also hurt BJP
With Dalit leaders Jitan Ram Manjhi and Ram Vilas Paswan by its side, the BJP feels it has cobbled together a winning caste combination in Bihar. But its calculations may go awry.
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has announced that the Bahujan Samaj Party will be fielding candidates in the upcoming Assembly elections.
"We are close to finalising the candidates for almost all the 243 seats in the state," senior BSP leader Swami Prasad Maurya told Catch, promising that the names would be announced very soon.
"The media is busy with the BJP and Nitish Kumar. We have been making preparations since the beginning of the year. Our leaders have been camping in the state for the last six months," he said.
Bad news for NDA
BSP's entry bodes ill for the NDA. The plan was to consolidate upper caste and Dalit votes, the same formula Mayawati had successfully tried in Uttar Pradesh.
Few would dispute that the BSP has been the foremost Dalit political party in the Hindi heartland, even though its vote share has been on the wane of late. Also, neither Paswan nor Manjhi can match Mayawati in terms of stature.
"This decision is bad news for us," admits a BJP leader. However, he adds that "this is a bipolar election. People will vote for one of the two major alliances. Votekatwas (spoilers) cannot damage us".
Ironically, the BJP is using the same "bipolar contest" argument that the Grand Alliance used while dismissing the SP, NCP and AIMIM as potential spoilers.
The BJP is doing its best to downplay the Mayawati threat. "Mayawati has become irrelevant in the recent past. She has zero presentation in the Lok Sabha. She lost the UP assembly elections. I don't think BSP is going to have any effect," BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy told Catch.
Expressing confidence in the BJP's allies, he said, "Bihar has Dalit leaders like Paswan and Mtanjhi. Mayawati is not relevant there".
According to BJP spokesperson Shrikant Sharma, "This election is not about caste and religion. People are going to vote for development. Mayawati is a non-issue".
Bhagwat's faux pas
Another factor that has put the BJP's Dalit vote in jeopardy is the recent statement by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that the reservation policy needs to be reviewed.
The Grand Alliance has already begun targeting the BJP on the issue. Lalu Prasad has already challenged the BJP to "do it (review reservations) and face the consequences".
KC Tyagi of JD(U) agrees that Mayawati could dent the NDA vote bank. However, he believes that the election is a "referendum in favour of Nitish Kumar". He also said that after Bhagwat's statement, "no one can save the NDA in Bihar now".
Even though the BSP had been preparing to enter Bihar's political battlefield for the past few months, it is the BJP which provoked Mayawati's final decision.
Apparently, the CBI is going to question Mayawati in connection with the NRHM scam. Addressing a press conference in Lucknow on Tuesday, Mayawati said, "CBI officials contacted me last evening and said they want to question me about the NRHM scam. They are free to question me as I have no connection with the scam. I pointed out that all the decisions were taken by the Cabinet and not the CM".
Daring the BJP, she further said, "BJP people have forgotten that I am not the one who can be bullied. I don't bow down in front of anyone. The BJP, which is trying to use the CBI, should give up such tactics", she added.
NDA's plan is to consolidate Upper Caste and Dalit votes. Mayawati's entry could spoil this
She is likely to go hammer and tongs on the need to keep "communal and anti-Dalit forces" out.
What also works in Mayawati's favour is the way SP ditched the Grand Alliance, helping BJP in the process. Entering the Bihar polls on a largely anti-BJP plank will buttress the BSP's credentials as the saffron party's main opponent in UP.
"We have always been against communal and anti-Dalit forces. The BJP has been exposed and Dalits and minorities will not fall for it," BSP leader Munkad Ali told Catch.