How BSP's vote bank got demolished by bureaucrats once close to Mayawati

National |  IANS  | Published :

Lucknow, May 31 (IANS) Political parties are made or marred by the decisions taken by their leaders but the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), in Uttar Pradesh, is an exception.

This is one party that thrived on its loyal band of bureaucrats and also lost its vote bank as the bureaucrats began moving away from the BSP.

BSP President Mayawati, as chief minister, was always lucky to have a loyal and dedicated band of bureaucrats to help her steer through the turbulent waters of Uttar Pradesh politics.

The bureaucrats, mainly Dalits, showed unflinching loyalty towards her and were a major reason for her success as a chief minister.

When she first took oath as chief minister, she was a complete novice when it came to administration and running the government.

It was then Rai Singh, an IAS officer known to be close to Kanshi Ram, who took charge and even guided her through the swearing in ceremony.

However, within weeks, Mayawati allegedly became suspicious of his style of functioning and showed Rai Singh the door.

He was replaced with PL Punia who guided the chief minister through all administrative and political decisions.

Over time, PL Punia earned the sobriquet of ‘mini chief minister’ and since Mayawati did not meet her party cadres, it was left to him to deal with them and address their problems.

Mayawati, as chief minister, never opened her doors for anyone – whether it was bureaucrats, party leaders or the media.

It was PL Punia who sorted out issues with other officers, listened to grievances of party leaders and workers and even wooed the media that was initially very hostile towards Mayawati.

Seeing PL Punia, other bureaucrats posted in Mayawati’s Secretariat also began adopting a similar style of functioning.

This suited the BSP President because she did not wish to be bothered with ‘smaller problems’. The people too, were satisfied because the bureaucrats solved their problem.

However, gradually, the loyalty of BSP cadres veered towards bureaucrats who addressed their problems and it is here that the problem began in the BSP.

PL Punia left Mayawati after the Taj Corridor controversy and later joined the Congress.

Brijlal, former Special DG in Uttar Pradesh, was another Mayawati favourite who left her.

An upright IPS officer, he was known to tackle the law-and-order situation with an iron hand. However, he was apparently eased out of her coterie and has now joined the BJP.

Brijlal is now Rajya Sabha MP and also the Dalit face of the BJP in UP.

Dalits who came to him to sort out their issues when he was in the BSP, now meet him when he is in the BJP.

“He still helps us and that is what matters to us. BSP has nothing left for us. We will go with those who still interact with us,” says Ramraj Prasad of Siddhartha Nagar.

According to a retired IAS officer, once known to be in Mayawati’s good books, “She is now completely under the influence of non-Dalit leaders and this has been her undoing. She refuses to entertain Dalit leaders and this is evident from the exodus of senior leaders from the party. It is a matter of time before the BSP completely disintegrates.”

Almost all these bureaucrats – now retired — are moving away from the BSP and have no qualms in criticising her style of function and deviated from Kanshi Ram’s ideology.

Retired IAS officer Kunwar Fateh Bahadur, who served as Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister in the Mayawati regime and was one of the most powerful officers in her regime, had questioned her decision to send leaders to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha from the Brahmin community.

He has now joined Samajwadi Party and sources close to the former IAS officer said that he was ‘pained’ to see Kanshi Ram’s party move away from his ideology.

As these bureaucrats moved away from the BSP, party cadres also moved out with them.

“Since these people come to us, it is our moral duty to help them and we do so,” said another former IAS officer.

Tribhuvan Ram, a former Chief Engineer in the PWD, had taken voluntary retirement in 2011 to join the BSP. He was elected to the Vidhan Sabha twice but later joined the BJP.

Former bureaucrats like Ram Bahadur and Shri Krishna who were known to be trusted babus in the Mayawati regimes, have now moved away from the BSP President.

Padam Singh, Mayawati’s Personal Security Officer, was known to be the man she trusted most. He was known as her shadow and she trusted him more than any of her party leaders and officers.

However, he fell out of favour for reasons not known and is now in the BJP.

Jatavs, supposedly the core BSP voters, are also in a quandary about the BSP’s future.

A generation of Jatavs, the caste BSP chief Mayawati herself comes from, had once been part of the Bahujan movement and are sworn loyalists of the party.

A weakened BSP, however, has resulted in most Jatav voters feeling let down.

Jatavs in many areas believe that the selection of wrong candidates in elections and Mayawati’s “muted” campaign may have done the party in.

The voices of dissent among the community in Uttar Pradesh are no longer few and far between.

Mayawati’s absenteeism from “active” politics is also haunting Jatavs.

“Woh kabhi aayein, hum logon se milen. Ek rally se kya hota hai? (She should come at times and meet us. One rally doesn’t achieve anything),” said Umakant, a Jatav in Kajitola locality of Kannauj.

In Jahta, a Dalit-dominated village in Malihabad, on the outskirts of Lucknow, discontent among the BSP cadre is obvious.

“What candidates Behenji has fielded this time baffles me. I cannot recall most of these names, though I am a party worker myself. Jo party ka kaam kare, ticket usko dena chahiye (They should give tickets to people who work for the party),” said a local party functionary.

Malihabad is the Assembly segment under the Mohanlalganj LS seat.

In fact, Azad Samaj Party’s Chandrashekhar Azad resonates more with the voters in Jatav-dominated villages in the constituency than Mayawati’s nephew, Akash Anand, who has been removed from all party posts.

Mayawati’s “disconnect” with the Jatav population is quite pronounced in many regions.

“We know she is a very big leader and cannot come to meet us on any ordinary day, but election is the time for it,” said Babulal, a resident of Gopramau Village.

Since 2016, the BSP has seen a mass exodus of top brass who were either from the foundational stream of the party or formed a strong second line in the hierarchy.

Many of them either quit or Mayawati expelled them. As a result, the party presently lacks any other Dalit face than Mayawati whose campaign many Jatavs find “confusing” as compared to other parties in the fray.

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