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Akash Anand’s abrupt demotion extinguishes sliver of hope for BSP

Akash Anand’s abrupt demotion extinguishes sliver of hope for BSP

While Akash Anand has not spared the Congress or the Samajwadi Party in his speeches, he reserved his sharpest criticism for the ruling BJP — a departure from Mayawati who has mostly targeted the Congress and the SP in recent years.

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Last Updated : 09 May 2024, 06:59 IST
Last Updated : 09 May 2024, 06:59 IST
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Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati made a surprising announcement on May 7, after the conclusion of the polling for the third phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. With polling completed on 26 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, and 54 seats to go, the removal of her nephew Akash Anand from the post of the BSP national coordinator and as her ‘political successor’ barely five months after she anointed him, has left everyone surprised.

Politicians are known to do strange things and make surprising decisions, but this decision by Behenji, as Maywati is referred to by her followers, surpasses political wisdom. Generally, political outfits change ‘Padadhikaris’ (officer-bearer), but the BSP chief has removed her ‘Uttaradhikari’ (successor).

What was not at all surprising was that she sacked her nephew and broke the news on social media site X only after the polling for the third phase was over, saying that Anand was “politically immature”. The 26 seats which have gone to the polls are in western UP, the stronghold of BSP’s Jatav politics.

Since his coronation, Anand got a lot of attention, especially in UP and mainly among young Dalit voters who attended his meetings and rallies. It was largely felt that under a young, suave, tech-savvy MBA graduate the BSP could regain its lost movement.

That said, his aggressive and controversial statements caused a lot of discomfort to Mayawati. While Anand has not spared the Congress or the Samajwadi Party (SP) in his speeches, he reserved his sharpest criticism for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — a departure from Mayawati who has mostly targeted the Congress and the SP in recent years. Both aunt and nephew addressed 13 rallies each across UP till May 6, a day before Anand was abruptly sacked.

Anand, after this anointment in December 2023, took an aggressive tone to revive the party and regain its presence among the Dalits. This may have influenced Maywati’s May 7 announcement. It is to be seen how this announcement will affect the full-throttle campaign which till now was led by the two leaders. The May 7 announcement will add credence to the Opposition’s accusations of the BSP being the BJP’s ‘B Team’.

The last-minute change of BSP candidates in Jaunpur and Basti reinforces the impression that Mayawati is under ‘pressure’ after the campaign by the aunt-nephew duo was creating an impact and had the potential to upset poll equations in the polls to the remaining 54 seats in the state.

In Uttar Pradesh, the Dalits account for 21 per cent of the population, of whom 54 per cent are the Jatavs. While the Jatavs are considered to be the BSP’s core base, a section of non-Jatav Dalits is known to have shifted loyalty to the BJP, considering the saffron outfits' three-pronged electoral strategy of Hindutva, ground-level social management, and beneficiary politics.

Historically, the BSP enjoyed support from a diverse coalition of backward castes, including the Kurmis, the Koeris, the Rajbhars, and the Nishads, along with lower-caste Muslims. These communities, disillusioned with the traditional power structures dominated by upper castes, gravitated towards the BSP's promise of social equality and representation, and Anand was trying to arrest the BSP's electoral decline by firmly dealing with organisational weaknesses, internal strife, filling up leadership vacuum, and by strongly outlining an ideological vision for the 'bahujan'.

The projection of Anand was also seen as a counter to Bhim Army founder and Aazad Samaj Party (Kanshi Ram) chief Chandra Shekhar Azad Ravan, who is contesting from the Nagina seat, projecting him as a political alternative to the BSP among the Dalit voters.

While Mayawati's formidable leadership once served as the linchpin of the BSP's identity politics and electoral strategy, the outfit which has struggled to replicate her charisma and political acumen was looking at Anand as a future leader. But his unceremonious demotion and labelling him as ‘politically immature’ has again put the Dalits and the Bahujans in a dilemma. This is taking place at a time when the SP is wooing the backward communities with its Picchde (backward classes or OBCs), Dalits and Alpsankhyak (minorities) (PDA) plank, and in a significant departure from the Congress' earlier strategy, Rahul Gandhi has almost owned the social politics with his 'social X-ray’ remarks.

Uttar Pradesh has four more phases of polls, and the fate of the BSP hangs in the balance. Anand’s abrupt demotion could dent the BSP’s political prospects. Once a dominant force championing the cause of social justice and empowerment, the BSP — after a glimmer of revival — now yet again finds itself grappling with existential challenges that threaten its very survival.

(Mahendra Kumar Singh is a political commentator and teaches Political Science at DDU Gorakhpur University, Uttar Pradesh. X: @MKSinghGkp.)


Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

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