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Mayawati chooses 'parijan' over 'bahujan'

Mayawati will be handing over the 39-year-old BSP into the hands of 28-year-old Akash Anand, an inexperienced dynast who may find it a big challenge to inspire the disillusioned youth in the party.
Last Updated : 12 December 2023, 05:58 IST

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Mayawati’s announcement of 28-year-old Akash Anand as her political heir of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) charts out the Dalit outfit's ideological and political journey from 'Bahujan’ to 'Sarvjan’ to 'Parijan’.

The party's shift from 'Bahujan' to a familial succession model mirrors the broader trend seen in regional outfits, highlighting the pragmatic measures adopted by many leaders to secure their political legacies.

BSP chief Mayawati's announcement on December 10 has not surprised many, because, in June 2019 she made her nephew Anand BSP’s national coordinator in the national executive meeting. This was a clear indication of the future of the party’s leadership.

 Mayawati's mentor Kanshi Ram did not inherit the party, he carved a niche for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, the Other Backward Classes and the minorities, and scripted an electrifying Bahujan movement in post-Independent India. On December 15, 2001, at a rally in Lucknow, Kanshi Ram named Mayawati his successor. She was elected national president of the BSP on September 18, 2003. Choosing Mayawati reflected Kanshi Ram's vision to reward the talent, hard work, and vision of ordinary BSP workers.

In 2008, rumour was that Rajaram would become Mayawati’s successor, but that was not to be. Mayawati, however, has chosen an easier and time-tested formula in Indian politics which keeps the party lamps lit at home. With her December 10 announcement, Mayawati has also kept the Dalit consciousness at home.

At a time when the BSP has moved from Dalit to ‘sarvajan’ and when Mayawati’s political inactivity has taken the wind out of the BSP’s sails, she has turned to dynastic politics to infuse new blood under Anand, thus aiming to stimulate the cadre for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. 

In 2007, 'sarvjan’ politics helped the BSP wrest power in Uttar Pradesh on its own where it won 206 of the 403 assembly seats cornering 30.43 per cent votes. However, the rise of Hindutva politics and grassroot social management of Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2013-2014 has almost decimated regional outfits born out of social engineering movement. In the 2022 polls, the BSP won one seat and had a vote share of 13 per cent.

Faced with an existential crisis, Mayawati, a known critique of dynastic politics, has now dumped the ideals of the BSP as well as of party founder Kanshi Ram and chose the safe path adopted by other regional outfits born out of caste-based political mobilisation after the Mandal movement in the 1990s, like the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Other regional parties that embarked on the politics of social change to expand their political base also promoted dynasties, such as the Biju Janata Dal, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, among others.

On the flip side, this could be a well-thought out strategy by Mayawati to regain hold over the Dalit votes, especially of the younger people looking at the Congress, the Samajwadi Party (SP), and the BJP as political alternatives after the BSP’s defeat in successive elections. Anand’s appointment could ensure a smooth succession, and avoid confusion among her followers. He could counter the rise of the Bhim Army led by Chandrashekhar Azad, blunt SP leader Akhilesh Yadav's drive to woo Dalit youth, and infuse energy among the party cadre.

There is a strong fear that the BSP chief’s decision will cast an impact on its core vote bank Jatavs, who look towards her with adoration. The Jatav community may not have the same affection towards Anand and they may look towards the I.N.D.I.A. alliance in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

It appears that the BSP leadership lacks a committed young cadre that can be trained to take over the reins of the leadership due to absence of any credible sourcing of talent. In 2023, the 39-year-old party is in the hands of an inexperienced dynast who may face a big challenge in the coming days as the disillusioned bahujan may look towards organisations such as the Bhim Army and other regional outfits.

Anand will find it a challenging task to step into Mayawati’s shoes and match her charisma among the Dalits in order to make the BSP once again a formidable player and regain its lost relevance in the national space. The dynastic shift raises pertinent questions about the potential impact on the BSP's core vote bank, particularly the Jatav community, who have historically looked towards Mayawati with admiration. Anand's ability to resonate with this demographic remains a key factor in determining the party's future trajectory.

(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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Published 12 December 2023, 05:58 IST

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