It is Mayawati versus all others in Uttar Pradesh
Lucknow: The race for the next assembly in Uttar Pradesh may be largely four-cornered. But it is increasingly evident that the electoral battle slated for February in the country's most populous state is bound to largely remain Mayawati vs the rest.
Be it the Samajwadi Party (SP), the leading opposition group, the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), each one is ready to dig into the votes of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which not only managed to romp home in 2007 with 206 seats in the 403 member house, but also raised its strength over the past four years to 218.
The common ground on which Mayawati and her regime is being targeted is "large-scale corruption" and "despotism". What has also gone against her is her perceived inaccessibility, where none other than those invited by her can have an audience with her.
While SP's Mulayam Singh Yadav is busy accusing Mayawati of running the state like her "private fiefdom", Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has been busy blasting the ruling party for "large-scale pilferage of funds" released by the Centre towards various development, social security or poverty alleviation programmes. The BJP has been trying to dismiss the ruling party as among the "most corrupt regimes in the country".
Interestingly, while taking on each one of these political outfits by the horns, Mayawati is trying to fight back with all her might. Sure enough, the task is neither easy nor simple. In the absence of sufficient genuine achievements she can boast of, Mayawati's strategy is focused on training her guns at each of the political rivals.
Labelling the SP a party of "criminals" and reminding people of the "rise in crime during the Mulayam regime", Mayawati is hoping to sail through by reviving her image of a ruthlessly tough task-master who is ready to bring every criminal to book.
"You can see how, unlike any other party, the BSP has never protected anyone no matter however high or mighty in case he is found indulging in any kind of criminal activities," she claims while citing the example of her party MPs or MLAs who were put behind bars when their unlawful activities came to the fore.
"I have not even spared my ministers whom I have sacked once they were indicted by the state Lokayukta for being involved in corruption," she emphasises.
At least four of her important ministers and nearly half a dozen of her party MPs or legislators were axed over the past few months, though her detractors are of the view that such action was initiated essentially to impress upon the electorate that she continues to remain a no-nonsense' chief minister, even as accusations of her personal indulgence in corruption are gaining round.
Notwithstanding her tall claims, there is little she can do about the anti-incumbency factor that is hanging over her. And none of the key political parties is ready to let go the opportunity to convert her losses into their gains.
Thus, if Mulayam Singh is working up to snatch the Muslim vote from her existing kitty to raise his 2007 tally of 97, the BJP, with its 2007 strength of 51, is trying to woo Brahmins back to its fold after a chunk of them went all out to support her in 2007 to forge a unique Dalit-Brahmin axis that propelled Mayawati to power.
Numerically speaking, it is the Congress that is faced with the toughest call to take its tally ahead from its last assembly score of 22. Therefore, it is leaving no stone unturned to win back Muslims as well as a section of Dalits and the most backward castes (MBCs). And that is where Rahul Gandhi is doing his bit to attack both the BSP and the SP.
Under the prevailing scenario, political pundits as well as surveys have already predicted a hung assembly in 2012. But with politicians known to make strange bedfellows, it would really be too early to predict the post-poll picture. For the time-being, it is going to be Mayawati versus the others SP, Congress and the BJP.