Mayawati quits; here’s why she lost UP

Posted on March 7, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Bahujan Samaj Party chief and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati tendered her resignation to Governor B L Joshi after her party was routed in the assembly elections in the state.

Mayawati, reports say, avoided the media persons and preferred to meet the UP Governor quietly, entering the Raj Bhavan from the back door.

However, television images showed a smiling BSP chief handing over her papers to the Governor and also exchanging pleasantries with him.

The BSP won only 80 seats as compared to the 206 seats that it had garnered in the 2007 assembly elections.The elections were still half-way when bureaucrats at the Uttar Pradesh secretariat, save a couple of Mayawati die-hards, emphatically said that the state was headed for a regime change.

On the pancham sthal (fifth floor) of Sachivalaya (secretariat), the wager was on the quantum of losses she would suffer. The most charitable estimate was she would drop from her 2007 high of 206 seats to around 110; the unkindest was she would plummet to 60 or so and perhaps trail the BJP.
Mayawati’s election discourse and body language seemed defensive from the start ‘ she was mostly countering the corruption allegations against her government. In between, she got offensive when she branded protesters at a meeting as the paltu kutte (lap dogs) of her opponents.
Pancham sthal was the repository of absolute power in Mayawati’s dispensation. Although physically bereft of the magnificence and awe other seats of authority such as the Kremlin commanded, the occupants of its cabins inspired the fear of God in supplicants. They were the only conduits to the then chief minister.
At the top of the pecking order was Mayawati’s cabinet secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh, followed closely by Net Ram, Navneet Sahgal, Fateh Bahadur Singh and Brij Lal. Lal was the director-general of police. He and Fateh Bahadur were removed by the Election Commission.
The BSP office on Mall Avenue, the approximate equivalent of Lutyens’s Delhi, was politically dwarfed by the “fifth floor” despite being a far more daunting structure with its padlocked gates. Ministers and MLAs wanting to meet Mayawati had to wait for days to seek an audience with Shashank Shekhar or Sahgal and even return empty-handed.
According to Lucknow lore, a minister who once “dared” to disturb Fateh Bahadur during his evening workout was told off by a flunkey that a repeat might cost him his job.
Uttar Pradesh politics is based on the mai-baap matrix. In the absence of individual entrepreneurship and incentivisation, the political system is the principal source of patronage: from getting jobs in government and recommendations for the private sector to swinging contracts and securing gun licences, the neta plays patron saint even if he sins every now and then.
BSP sources said that with power shifting to the bureaucracy, they were unable to play patron to restive clients. “Ministers were ciphers. Those that could feather their nests did so with gusto. Others fell by the wayside,” a source said.
Mayawati had virtually stopped interacting with her leaders and cadres. Occasionally when a complaint was lodged against a BSP official or a minister, she directed her bureaucrats to axe him.
Sources said she had “little or no idea” of how the numerous schemes she announced were working on the ground, whether the target groups were benefitting or whether the BSP’s zonal co-ordinators had allegedly abused them.
BSP insiders recalled that Mayawati had her ears to the ground when she thrice ran a coalition with the BJP. “It seems she was on perpetual notice. That sense of insecurity induced her to work hard and show results,” an insider said.
“Because she was able to hold her own against the BJP, despite it being the larger party, people started seeing her as a woman of substance. It seems when she got a majority, she became complacent.”
Sundered from her roots as it were, Mayawati’s winning caste formulation that yielded an absolute majority in 2007 started to crack.
When she embarked on a “Brahmin appeasement” drive through political confidant Satish Mishra, her core voters, the Jatavs (who form the creamy layer among the Dalits), were openly resentful. Afraid of losing their support, she did a full circle and directed her policies only at the Dalits.
An oft-heard refrain in the Dalit areas was: “Our Behenji is being sacrificed because she worked for us.”
If the upper castes, principally the Brahmins and Thakurs, found themselves booked under the Prevention of Crimes against the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Act every now and then, the Muslims ‘ who had voted for her in large numbers ‘ alleged their complaints were never heard by police and the administration.
In Moradabad, where a large number of Muslims run small brassware units out of home, a common grouse was they were slapped with “hefty” penalties ‘ between Rs 80,000 and a lakh ‘ for allegedly defaulting on back payments for power.
Barring the Jatavs, across the caste and community spectrum, voters wondered what was in it for them if they were to re-elect Mayawati to power. Especially when she had no manifesto to offer.
Mayawati’s incremental votes had largely slipped out of the BSP’s caste sieve.

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