AA Edit | Dalit assertion: Maya’s legacy

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

Mayawati, the iconic leader who transformed Dalit aspirations, hands over BSP leadership to nephew Akash Anand.

BSP president Mayawati. (Photo: PTI)

The announcement by the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati of her decision to hand over the reins of her party to her nephew, Akash Anand, formally naming him the heir apparent after a meeting of the party’s office bearers, was largely anticipated, carrying no element of surprise and almost a foregone conclusion.

Ms Mayawati, popularly called Behenji, who herself took over the reins of the party from its founder, and her mentor, Kanshi Ram, over two decades ago, took the party to great heights but also presided over its decline to a point of little electoral relevance, especially in Uttar Pradesh, after the spectacular revival of the BJP in the north Indian politics in the Narendra Modi era.

Mayawati, who served as the first Dalit women chief minister of any state in India, stormed to power in UP on four different occasions, and during her reign, her greatest contribution was to enhance the self-belief of Dalits, creating a greater sense of assertion and craving for newer and higher aspirations.

Born in 1956, she was working as a teacher and aspired to become an IAS officer, when Kanshi Ram spotted her potential as a leader of the future. Mayawati’s meteoric and unparalleled rise was described by former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao as a “miracle of democracy”, stunned the political establishment when she became the CM of the largest administrative unit by population in India, Uttar Pradesh in 1995. Incidentally, she was then the youngest CM of UP.

In her first three terms, she could not complete her term, owing to a checkered and controversial relationship with the Samajwadi Party and the BJP, and the unpredictable faultlines of alliance governments. She also served as a Parliamentarian. She could finally serve a complete term in 2012 to 2017, before the SP defeated the BSP and Akhilesh Yadav took charge as CM, a term that was both hailed and flayed by different sections of society. Her success in restoring law and order was hailed, as were her steps towards Dalit empowerment. But charges of excesses of corruption and creating huge statues of herself to be installed in a park in the heart of the capital of UP led to her defeat.

In the last few years, the BSP looked like a spent force and became electorally less significant, in UP and across India. But come the moment when she sang her swansong, all of India must stand up to hail her success, and the confidence it gave to millions of Dalits and other subalterns, that if she could, so can they.