The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP reels from rally blow

New Delhi, April 15: Mayavati’s pardafash rally is another setback to the BJP in the series of blows it has been dealt ever since the party allied with the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh for the third time.

The cases Mayavati slapped on Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav — announced at yesterday’s rally — have reinforced the perception that Uttar Pradesh polity is getting polarised on the Tamil Nadu pattern. The model involves two major regional parties which hold the centrestage and have alliances with smaller caste-based outfits and allow the mainstream parties to ride them piggyback.

BJP sources said their party, which dominated the state in the mandir-Mandal era, was being pushed to the fringes.

The phenomenon, they said, would revive the debate whether it was worth “sacrificing” the party’s carefully nurtured base for the sake of Lok Sabha seats, irrespective of the central leadership’s stand.

“The scenario that is emerging suggests that while the poor castes and classes are rallying behind Mayavati, the richer, land-owning communities are opting for the Samajwadi Party rather than us,” a BJP functionary said. “In some cases, members of the latter castes (read group) even prefer to vote directly for the BSP rather than the BJP because they get an equally good, if not better, deal from Mayavati.”

In recent elections, Mayavati has been giving tickets to upper-caste candidates, ensuring their victory and rewarding them with plum positions. Mayavati has also shown a willingness to embrace Buddhism.

As for the BJP, it considers Buddhism another sect of Hinduism; Buddha and Ambedkar have already been co-opted in the party’s pantheon of luminaries. The proselytised Buddhists (neo-Buddhists), however, do not consider Buddhism part of Hinduism. This is a point that Mayavati underlined in yesterday’s speech when she asked Dalits to convert to Buddhism if they could not endure the exploitation of Hinduism.

BJP sources said her call to the Dalits was bad news when party leaders were pushing the pan-Hindu identity under the Hindutva banner of Ram temple, religious conversion and cow slaughter.

BJP vice-president Pyarelal Khandelwal said: “Hindu religion was always reformist. Mayavati has a point about reforming it further, but she should also… ask her people to stop drinking and practising child marriage and polygamy.”

According to political observers, Mayavati’s Hinduism-Buddhism distinction was also meant to appeal to Muslims. In her present tenure as chief minister, she alienated the community when she refused to renew the notification that would have enabled the revival of the trial of the Babri mosque accused.

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