Thursday, April 17, 2008

MAYAWATI'S 'T's TROUNCE CONGRESS'S 'R's

“Tilak, Tarazoo aur Talwar, inko maro jootey chaar.” This was the clarion call originally given by Mayawati’s BSP to awaken Dalits to challenge their thousands of years old oppression by the three upper castes, Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. The call was then to metaphorically shoe-beat the upper castes to actualize their potential to lead the country.

These three ‘T’s still remain the rallying point for the downtrodden. But with a difference. The call now sounds more like “ Tilak, Tarazoo aur Talwar, humse neeche baitho yaar”. Mayawati, having realized that dalits did not have sufficient numbers to get to power on their own, has changed her strategy from “beating” upper castes to “befriending” them, as long as they sit below dalits in the hierarchy of power. That strategy worked magnificently in the UP elections in May 2007 when Mayawati stormed to power on her own to the utter shock and surprise of many who thought they knew it all.

The Congress party, badly mauled in UP and in the state elections that followed, had to come up with something to reclaim its pre-eminence as the leading political party of India. It chose, both by design and accident, three ‘R’s, Reservations, Rural employment and Rahul Gandhi, to do the trick for it.

Reservations for OBCs were literally thrust upon it by HRD Minister Arjun Singh, who let the genie loose more out of spite at having been overlooked for the PM’s job than any great political acumen. It is amazing as to why politicians across the spectrum have not understood something really elementary, despite all evidence and experience. Giving more and more reservations will not get votes; it may actually cost you some votes of those who feel the pinch of reduced non-quota seats. VP Singh found that out rudely after he first unleashed Mandal. But there is a problem. Reservations will not get you votes but will certainly make the party which opposes them lose votes of those who stand to gain! So, with despicable political immorality, the moment someone utters “reservation”, every party vociferously supports it and nobody actually gains!

Rural employment, guaranteed through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), was the second measure announced with much fanfare and expectation of rich electoral dividends. Past experience should have shown that such schemes are guaranteed to only bleed the exchequer and feed the always open mouths of already fattened bureaucrats, politicians and other power brokers. The intended beneficiaries are always almost wholly cheated and remain squarely where they were, watching others get richer and stronger than before. So, while the babus remain in a win-win situation, no party gets the votes!

Rahul was the third and most important ‘R’ that the Congress thought, still does, would be the unmatched trump card, the brand power that would attract enough votes, particularly those of the youth, to tilt the numbers in the party’s favour. Rahul attracts crowds wherever he goes, but the engagement seems to end there itself. He visits dalit homes, sharing their meals and even spending a night with them. But that does not make them vote for him. Why? Try, if you can, to be a dalit for a moment and imagine where the three ‘T’s hit you. Besides, people are really smart. They know why he has come to them. Had Mayawati not disturbed Congress’s sleep, would he have bothered? Mayawati has forced him to come. And they also know that once Rahul comes, can Mayawati, one of their own, be far behind?

Similarly, when Rahul declines a ministerial berth in Manmohan Singh’s government, party poodles and their cousins in the media try to project it as a ‘sacrifice’ as the young man wants to concentrate on party work! The ordinary man knows that Rahul is in this business to become PM only. He will not accept lesser appointments which are for the likes of minions like Scindia and Prasad, not for royalty! Only the seriously challenged will believe that this kind of mindless servility, indeed deception, is going to win Rahul votes!

The results of the by elections in the three assembly and two Lok Sabha seats from UP announced yesterday have, therefore, come as no surprise, at least to me. Mayawati’s three ‘T’s have won all the seats for her. All talk of dalit and upper caste disenchantment with Mayawati’s rule, the effect of the Tikait challenge and the magic of the Congress’s ‘R’s has proved illusory as it had to. The impact of the larger and more fundamental societal churning that Mayawati represents has again been underestimated. To underscore the dismal failure of the strategy of the Congress, the BJP has won the lone Lok Sabha seat in neighbouring MP.

In a number of previous posts, I had written in detail that the often confused and stereotyped efforts of the Congress, sometimes displaying an amazing intelligence deficit, were not going to get the party anywhere. On the contrary Mayawati was uniquely poised to achieve a quantum jump in the number of MPs she could get into Parliament in the ensuing elections by affecting a split in the Congress, the likes of which the party had never seen before.

The results of the by elections prove that the possibility of such a development taking place has increased manifold. The process of large scale exodus from the Congress into the arms of Mayawati in states where she needs such help to start winning seats big time may well be hastened by these results. Around 100 MPs, even less, should ensure that no one other than her can become the PM after the next elections. All that she now needs to do is to skillfully attract enough Congressmen and their vote banks where she needs them most.

Knowing that power is the only currency that excites most of our politicians, don’t be surprised if the number of Congressmen wanting to jump into Mayawati’s caravan to Delhi far exceeds what we can even contemplate now.