Editorial: Chosen few
Can the bahujan — ‘majority’ — coexist peacefully with the sarvajan — ‘everyone’? This has been one of the most enduring dilemmas confronting the Bahujan Samaj Party. The BSP has, undoubtedly, been one of the principal champions of political representation and empowerment of Dalits, which, as per the census of 2011, comprised a little over 20 per cent of Uttar Pradesh’s population. Yet — this point cannot be underemphasized — the BSP’s high noon in 2007, when it went on to win power in UP on its own, was made possible by its eagerness to forge a broader, rainbow alliance with Brahmins and Dalits willing to join hands in an unprecedented show of solidarity. Mayawati, the BSP’s undisputed leader, seems to be of the opinion that the time is now ripe for a similar experiment in reverse social engineering. She recently declared that the party would launch a campaign under the stewardship of Satish Mishra to attract Brahmins back to the BSP’s fold. Political calculations, obviously, lie at the heart of this outreach. Ms Mayawati’s belief is that the present chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, and the Bharatiya Janata Party have ended up alienating Brahmins on account of their patronage of Kshatriyas — Mr Adityanath belongs to this caste group. A sarvajan alliance, instead of mobilizing Dalits alone, could, Ms Mayawati hopes, brighten the chances of an electoral resurgence.
Yet, this strategy is not without its own pitfalls. One of the reasons behind the BSP’s political eclipse since 2012 has been the competitive aspirations of Brahmins and Dalits. Achieving an enduring balance between the historically conflicting interests of these two social groupings could pose a steep challenge even for a seasoned politician. Ms Mayawati’s hold on her core support group may need to be re-examined too. Dalit perceptions of the BJP seem to have undergone a subtle transformation — for the better — especially among non-Jatavs, fracturing the BSP’s arc of influence even among its traditional voters. It remains to be seen whether Ms Mayawati retains the ability to regain the ground that she had ceded to the BJP, given that the word on the street is that she no longer can afford to be adversarial to the ruling regime in Delhi. Political considerations apart, Ms Mayawati’s appeal conveys a deeper tragedy about Indian democracy. Even after seven decades of Independence, the fulcrum of politics continues to revolve on the appeasement of ascriptive social formations.