Uday Yadav, an LIC employee, recalled the cynicism he once felt towards the BSP government. The money spent on erecting memorials and parks could have been diverted to improve the health, education and road infrastructure, he contended.
Seated in his house in the semi-urban locality of Sarojini Nagar, Mr. Uday also made a passing reference to a view held by non-Dalits that preference was given to the Dalits during Mayawati’s tenure — a period during which his loyalty to the SP made him a natural opponent of the BSP.
But in 2019, he is going to vote for the BSP for the first time, and that without batting an eyelid.
“Ab dono ek ho gaye hai (Both are together now),” he reasoned, smiling. “Both have worked for Dalits and OBCs, but separately… now they will do it together.”
The fact that Mayawati, in a speech in Mainpuri, hailed SP founder Mulayam Singh as the “real leader” of the OBCs had removed “all confusion” and even those Yadavs who had harboured sour memories of the SP-BSP relationship in the aftermath of the ‘Lucknow guest house incident’ had been won over, said Mr. Uday.
In June 1995, some SP MLAs and workers — angered by rumours that the BSP was about to pull the rug on the SP-BSP coalition government — had stormed the Lucknow State guest house and assaulted several BSP leaders who were holding a meeting there, forcing Mayawati to take shelter in a room. Soon after, the Centre, on the advice of the State’s Governor, dismissed the State’s coalition government headed by Mulayam Singh, following which Mayawati was sworn in as Chief Minister, with outside support from the BJP among others.
Raj Kishore Yadav is another resident of the constituency and a dairy farmer — the Yadav community’s traditional occupation.
Like Mr. Uday, nobody in Mr. Raj’s family has ever voted for any other party since the SP was founded. But this time, his family plans to ride the ‘elephant’ (the BSP’s electoral symbol). The explanation in this case is the perceived discrimination faced by Yadavs under BJP rule — the BJP ran a high-pitched campaign against alleged preferential treatment given to the Yadavs when the SP was in power — and what Mr. Raj called “mazboori”.
“Even if we vote BJP, we won’t be counted, they won’t believe us. Where else to go,” asked the dairy farmer.
He said he never expected the two parties would come together but was glad that to “move forward”, they had formed an alliance. “If they didn’t, the BJP would rule for a long time,” he opined.
Both Mr. Uday and Mr. Raj live in Mohanlalganj where the BJP, BSP and Congress are locked in a triangular contest. Since it is a reserved constituency, the Dalit vote — all parties have fielded Pasis — would be divided, meaning victory would hinge on the core support base of the parties. While the BSP has never won Mohanlalganj, the SP has won it four times — 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009. The BSP’s fortunes would hinge to a significant extent on the transfer of the SP votes, mainly from the Yadavs.
This holds true across U.P.
Travelling across the State, anecdotal evidence and the opinion of some political observers suggest that the two parties are being fairly successful in transferring their votes to each other’s candidates. Not everyone, however, is convinced that the vote transfer will prove to be foolproof.
While the Jatav vote, despite the Dalit community’s differences with the dominant OBCs, is understood to be easily transferable due to Mayawati’s personal sway (she herself is a Jatav), observers wonder if the Yadavs would vote for the BSP with the same enthusiasm. The argument is that the social and political relationship of the Yadavs has not been amicable with the BSP, which is accused of having targeted the community with cases under the SC and ST (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act.