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Mayawati moves in, launches into battle mode for UP 2017

Panini Anand | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:15 IST
The Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are due in 2017 but parties have already begun preparing for the grand battle.

Both the national parties, BJP and Congress, have been making flamboyant gestures to woo Dalit vote banks both in UP and Bihar, with programs dedicated to Dalit icon Dr BR Ambedkar.

But interestingly, the first off the blocks isn't the ruling Samajwadi Party or BJP president Amit Shah's election machinery - which unleashed a saffron wave in UP during the Lok Sabha elections.
It is Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party that has silently and methodically begun work on its 2017 election campaign.

"As many as 65% of the candidates have been selected. In a couple of weeks, the candidates for all the seats would be decided," senior BSP leader Munkad Ali told Catch.

If a party insider is to be believed, BSP supremo Mayawati followed an extremely strict criteria for selecting candidates, combining factors like popularity, commitment and contribution to the party, besides the considerations of caste, age and religion.

BSP is perhaps the most secretive party in the country. Except for the occasional press conference by Mayawati, the party shares very little information with the media. So even though the party has decided on its candidates for nearly two-thirds of the seats in UP, it is no hurry to make the names public.

"Candidates are being informed and they are being asked to start working on their seats," said a senior party leader.

Mayawati's approach is clear: let the BJP and SP battle it out on prime time television, the BSP will put its energy where it matters - on the ground.

This is a significant change from Mayawati's style of functioning as chief minister. Many people still remember the days when she used to make surprise visits to hospitals and schools and punish officials for any misconduct.

This flamboyant style has been missing since the party lost in 2012, which left many people wondering what Mayawati has been up to since then.

Strengthening the foundations

The 2014 General Elections saw the BSP's fortunes hit rock bottom as it flailed to win a single seat out of the 80 seats in UP. With no representation in the Lok Sabha, the party more or less fell off the national radar. But little did anyone know that the BSP was quietly rebuilding itself on the ground.

"We are not working for the media or for people sitting in Delhi, forecasting our future. We are working on the ground and among the people of the state who need us and who will vote for us in the next election," a senior BSP leader asserts.

They believe that the people of UP will once again choose the BSP.

"Narendra Modi's illusion is over. Their dismal performance over the last one year has exposed them. Under the SP, mafia raj has returned to UP and development has come to a halt," said Munkad Ali.

Mayawati has already selected 65% of the candidates. All the seats will be decided in a couple of weeks

The BSP's preparations are on full steam. Mayawati herself is going to spend most of her time in the state capital, Lucknow for next one month. She would be examining the BSP's prospects on each and every assembly seat of the state. She would also look into the work done so far at Mandal level in the party.

Report from each Mandal would be presented to her and she will then decide the further course of action. A team of senior leaders in the party has been formed to supervise the party strategy at district level.

These leaders are holding meetings with district level units and are keeping a tab on the implementation of directions coming from the leadership. This real-time feedback mechanism is helping them keep the strategy focused.

This is not the first time Mayawati has decided her party's candidates well in advance. But there seems to be a sense of urgency this time on. The party also wants to avoid the negative publicity it had to face on earlier occasions because of allegations that tickets were 'sold'.

First published: 23 June 2015, 8:39 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.