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    Elections 2012: Despite various attempts, opposition fails to punch holes in Mayawati's vote bank

    Synopsis

    The crowds gathered at Mayawati's rally in Sitapur could be construed as an indicator of her continued sway over Dalit constituency.

    ET Bureau
    NEW DELHI: The heavy turnout at Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's inaugural election rally at Sitapur on Wednesday reinforced the BSP supremo's credentials as a powerful crowd-puller, while dampening the assessment of her political adversaries that BSP's core vote bank, Dalits, were withering.

    The crowds gathered at Mayawati's rally in Sitapur, located some 85 km from Lucknow, could be construed as an indicator of her continued sway over the entire Dalit constituency, and not just Jatavs, who constitute the party's core base. The caste profile of Sitapur is significant indicator of her support as there are as many Pasis, a Dalit sub-caste, in the district as Jatavs. And the big crowd at the venue must have gladdened the hearts of party strategists, while causing dismay to political rivals.

    While BSP supremo may be reassured of the continued backing of Dalits, notwithstanding a few hiccups here and there, she would be looking forward to a similar response from the other social groupings, particularly from upper castes and MBCs. It was the expansion of BSP's social base in 2007 that enabled it to cross the 30% voter-base threshold, enabling it to leap from a mere 98 seats in 2002 to an impressive 206 seats five years later.

    Over the past couple of years, Congress, in particular, has made a determined bid to weaken Mayawati's grip over Dalits by trying to play upon the insecurities of non-Jatavs and promising them empowerment. As part of this exercise, party general secretary Rahul Gandhi has been visiting hutments of communities such as Pasis, Valmikis and Dhanuks, to understand their problems. Congress has given tickets to a substantial number of non-Jatavs in reserved constituencies.

    The impressive gathering at Mayawati's first election rally at Sitapur and the subsequent ones at Faizabad and Gonda has, however, demonstrated that Dalits continue to swear by Mayawati. Political observers who attended the Sitapur rally did not fail to notice that a great majority of crowds were Dalits, who cheered everytime Mayawati took on her political rivals.

    Dalits account for 17.1 % of total UP electorate. Jatavs are the pre-dominant community among Dalits, accounting nearly 10.8%, Pasis (3.5%), and Valmikis, Dhanuks, Khatiks, Sonkars and Dhobis go on to complete the list. While Jatavs, who, over the past few decades, have emerged as the major beneficiaries of SC reservation in UP, are vocal and aggressive, the other sub-categories are not as vociferous about their rights.

    While Dalits are expected by and large to vote for BSP candidates in the coming elections, Mayawati realises that it's her party's new, all-encompassing Sarva Dharma Hitaya formula that will reap the right political dividends. The chief minister, therefore, has been harping on the theme in rally after rally, in an attempt to underscore the fact that BSP has ceased to be a party with Dalit-only agenda.

    Till the 2002 assembly polls in UP, BSP remained wedded to the Dalit cause, constricting its social appeal. It had then contested 401 seats, bagging 98 of them, with a poll percentage of 23.06. It changed in 2007 with the all-encompassing policies and paid the party rich dividends. But five years of Mayawati's rule, her rivals contend, have created disillusionment among the upper castes, particularly Brahmins. Parties such as BJP and Congress have intensified their efforts to woo them back.
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    1 Comment on this Story

    Raju Charles3317 days ago
    Live Free as Indian or die as a low caste!!! Chief Minister Mayawathi has taken the high road to Social Justice and Civil Rights in India!!!
    Dalits will not be intimidated by the caste Hindus! Stand up and vote to defeat the open air caste based holocaust in India!
    Save India! vote for human rights in caste India!
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