SITAPUR: The secret of Mayawati’s surge in UP unfolds in the dusty town of Sitapur, around 100 km from Lucknow. Here, in a maidan surrounded by the many symbols of emerging India - a Nokia showroom, garages bursting with shiny motorbikes, shops flaunting neatly packed washing machines - thousands of people from over 100 villages in the district have descended to hear the BSP chief flay Mulayam Singh, the BJP and the Congress.
There are Dalits of all ages, Muslims sporting beards and caps and
Brahmins whose dress and demeanour set them apart immediately. It’s a startling reversal of an ancient social order as opposite ends of the caste spectrum gather under the blue banner of the BSP. But no one seems to mind. Traditional prejudices have blurred in a quest for new alignments that will give the have-nots under Mulayam Singh a share in the power pie.
“Brahmins have been out of power for too long. Mulayam’s party is
dominated by Yadavs and Thakurs. The BJP and Congress are too weak to defeat it. So what option do Brahmins have? The BSP is the only logical choice for us,’’ said Umesh Misra who runs Sitapur’s most prominent medical clinic.
Mayawati calls it “a social revolution in the making’’, a triumph of
the ideology of the bahujan samaj. “We want to create a just and
equitable society in which all castes and religions are equal,’’ she told DNA in a brief chat after a fiery speech that had the crowd listening with rapt attention. “But we have realised that we can’t do it only through the bahujan samaj. The upper castes have to be ready for it also. It’s finally happening.’’
Misra and his colleague, Manju Shukla, prefer to reserve judgement.
“This is a trial run for us Brahmins,’’ said Shukla. “There is no doubt
that the BSP has changed vastly. Mayawati’s language is more conciliatory. She’s given 136 tickets to the upper castes of which 86 went to Brahmins alone. We are ready to give her a chance.’’
Misra nodded in agreement. “But she will have to give us stakes in her government. If she doesn’t, we’ll look elsewhere next time. This is like an examination,’’ he warned. It is certainly a challenge for
Mayawati who must nurture with care the caste alliance she has crafted after three years of intensive reverse social engineering. But that comes later. For the moment, she’s concentrating on the rich harvest she hopes to reap in these elections through clever caste arithmetic. “The upper castes (read Brahmins) are with us. We are also getting many more Dalit votes this time,’’ she said.
Her success in winning Brahmin support for her party, however cautious it may be, has electrified all manner of Dalits who are looking at Mayawati with new eyes. For the first time, Mayawati appears poised to add a multitude of lesser known Dalit castes to her formidable Jatav base. Throw in a sizeable chunk of Muslims and it’s obvious that Mayawati has done her sums better than her opponents.
The glow is unmistakable on the faces of the Jatavs who have remained loyal to her all these years. “Of course, there’s opposition (to the popular rise of a Dalit leader),’’ acknowledged Suresh Ram with quiet satisfaction as he surveyed the unusual crowd mix at Mayawati’s rally. “So what? It’s happening despite that, isn’t it?’’