Chief Minister for the fourth time, Ms. Mayawati had started off her present tenure on a positive note. The biggest setback for the regime, however, has been on the law and order front, ironically the same plank which catapulted Ms. Mayawati to power.
Mayawati's plate is full: anti-incumbency, corruption charges against some of her Ministers, potential threat posed by MLAs denied tickets, CBI probe in the NRHM scam. As the feisty leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party leads her party's charge in the Assembly elections single-handedly, the adage “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” is becoming increasingly apparent.
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The Bahujan Samaj Party is contesting all the 403 seats in this election, with Ms. Mayawati saying she would prefer to go it alone rather than allying with any party. The ‘ekla chalo re' message has been drilled into party workers and the BSP's core support base of Dalits. Believing in the dictum of taking the bull by its horn, the Chief Minister, in an attempt to present an image different from that of the other political parties, sacked over a dozen ministers on alleged corruption charges and went on to deny tickets to over 100 sitting MLAs. New candidates with a “clean image” and commitment to “the Bahujan movement” were preferred over the sitting MLAs and the ministers dismissed by her. Knowing that she is the only politician in the country who has the capacity to transfer an entire vote bloc — a legacy inherited from her mentor and BSP founder, Kanshi Ram — Ms. Mayawati is seemingly unfazed.
Sample the justification given by her at an election rally in Barabanki: “Earlier (in 2007), many persons with dubious credentials did manage to get tickets and win the elections. In the pursuance of their selfish motives they indulged in wrong acts, which is why a stern action was taken against them and they were denied tickets.” Commenting on her move, a rather displeased BSP leader said, “As the supreme leader of the party and Chief Minister, Ms. Mayawati may have justified her action, but the mere mention in election rallies and the ‘bhaichara sammelans' (brotherhood meetings) betrayed a sense of unease on her part over the possibility of disgruntled MLAs and sacked Ministers rocking the BSP's boat in the elections.” While some of the discontented MLAs managed to get tickets of other parties to settle scores with the BSP, those left behind are in their own way damaging the prospects of the party. Brijesh Mishra ‘Saurabh' is one such BSP MLA from Garhwara in Pratapgarh district. It's a different matter that Garhwara seat has ceased to exist after the delimitation of constituencies, but Saurabh was a contender for a BSP ticket from Pratapgarh city seat. He is now contesting on Janata Dal (United) ticket from Pratapgarh and is pitted against the sitting BSP MLA, Sanjay Tripathi. “Tickets have been denied to 122 sitting MLAs and I don't know what the criteria was for the selection of candidates. But if merit, and not money power, was the criteria, then a ticket would not have been denied to me,” Mr. Saurabh told The Hindu.
Ambika Singh, the sitting MLA from Sahjanwa in Gorakhpur, was included in the BSP candidates' list but was axed at the last moment. The ticket has now gone to first-timer Brijesh Singh, son of Rampal Singh, who was an MLC in the V.P. Singh's government in 1980. It is being speculated that a senior official played a crucial role in securing the ticket for Brijesh Singh at the expense of the sitting MLA. A sulking Ambika Singh said he “had no intention of joining any other party and was just biding his time.” However, the MLA admitted that other sitting MLAs who were denied tickets were out to dent the party's prospects.
Chief Minister for the fourth time, Ms. Mayawati had started off her present tenure on a positive note and shown much promise in the first two years. But following that, things began to sour with the alleged involvement of the BSP MLAs in criminal cases, ranging from murder to alleged rape, government- farmer dispute over land acquisition in Aligarh, Agra and Bhatta-Parsaul, involvement of several ministers in corruption charges which led to their sacking. The biggest setback for the regime, however, has been on the law and order front, ironically the same plank which catapulted Ms. Mayawati to power. The alleged attempt to rape and murder of a minor in a police station in Kheri district, the broad daylight murders of two chief medical officers along with the mysterious death of a deputy CMO in the Lucknow district jail, caused a furore within the State. Furthermore, the likelihood of these incidents to be linked to the multi-crore NRHM scam, as well as the CBI inquiry into it, exposed the chinks in the ruling party's armour.
Notwithstanding the uphill ride, Ms. Mayawati herself is very much a factor in the U.P. elections. Amidst the possibility of a two-way contest with the Samajwadi Party in most of the constituencies, all eyes are waiting to see which way the dice rolls a month from now.