Minutes ahead of vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha on 17 April, 1999 Mayawati sprung a surprise on then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the entire lot of the ruling BJP. Till that morning and before entering the House, she had assured the support of five BSP MPs to the Vajpayee government, but when her turn came, she gave a brief speech and concluded by saying that her party would vote against the motion. That stunned the treasury benches, because the scales had been tilted. The voting process began immediately after and rest is history — the Vajpayee government lost the vote of confidence by one vote. And in doing so, she proved that she along with her mentor Kanshi Ram was best practitioner of real politik, who could even startle the likes of Vajpayee, LK Advani and Pramod Mahajan. That incident also sent a lasting message about her: Don’t ever take Mayawati for granted. File image of BSP chief Mayawati. PTIFile image of BSP chief Mayawati. PTI Two decades later, the Congress under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership seems to have completely forgotten those lessons about her. It took her affectionate hugs with Sonia Gandhi in Bengaluru during the swearing-in ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy as a done deal for a grand alliance with the BSP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and in Assembly elections where the Congress’ will would prevail over her. In a way, the party’s top brass appear to have taken her support for granted. Rahul went around the country and abroad talking about the Mahagathbandhan or grand coalition in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (together accounting for 122 Lok Sabha seats) and claiming, on-record and off it that this alliance was going to finish off the BJP in next General Election. He even predicted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s defeat in the Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency. The Congress leaders conveniently forgot that she was a hard-boiled politician, who has risen through the ranks because of sheer personal grit and overpowering ambition. She is the one who keeps the other side on tenterhooks till the last minute. The bargain always has to be in her favour. If she makes a mistake or two, she learns from them and returns the favour in due course. Even in Bengaluru, the pictures of Mayawati and Sonia featured Rahul in the frame as a mere bystander, standing by his mother’s side without exchanging words or conveying positive body language with regional leaders. It was clear that she would accept Sonia as a partner even a leader of larger coalition, but wouldn’t accept Rahul as leader. In one single shot, she punctured the hype around the ‘one nation, one Opposition to Modi and BJP’ Mahagathbandhan fostered by the Congress and the like-minded. Calling the Congress “casteist and communalist”, just as the BJP was for her, she concluded her press conference on Wednesday by saying, “One thing I want to make absolutely clear. Considering the Congress’ attitude, my party will not fight elections with the party at any cost. With this important announcement I am ending this media briefing.” Consider her charge against Congress: That “the truth is Congress in the name of a coalition wants to finish BSP”. Although she made a villain out of Digvijaya Singh, a look at what she said about the Congress makes it clear that she smartly used the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and senior Congress leader as an easy pretext to dump the party. Consider her words: “Congress party ki galatfahmi ke saath-saath uska ahankar bhi ab sar chad kar bol raha hai… rassi jal gayee par ainthan abhi tak nahi gayee… waise toh Congress ki har mamle me abhi bhi dayaniye sthithi hai phir bhi Gujarat ki tarah abhi tak yeh galatphami bani hui hai…” The essence of her message was that the Congress was drunk with arrogance and misinformed notions. She went to add how Congress had ill-treated Dr BR Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram. Mayawati sent out a message to her social constituents by making it public that while negotiating for an alliance in Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress leadership was not giving the due honour and dignity she felt her party and its supremo deserved. She made it public that the Congress was offering nine to 10 seats out of a total of 200 seats in Rajasthan, 15 to 20 out of 230 in Madhya Pradesh and five or six out of 90 in Chhattisgarh. The BSP leader reduced Congress to a sorry figure, just a day after the Grand Old Party had adopted a resolution CWC meet at Sewagram, Wardha that like Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India movement in 1942, the Congress under Rahul’s leadership was launching a “new freedom movement” to throw the Modi government out of power. By stitching together an alliance with Deve Gowda’s JD(S) in Karnataka, OP Chautala’s INLD in Haryana and Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress in Chhatisgarh, and a proposed alliance with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Ajit Singh’s RLD in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati is effective forming a Third Front without saying so in as many words. The JD(S) and INLD have proposed her name as a prime ministerial candidate in 2019. Her own party is pitching her for the top slot. She is open to alliances with smaller parties in other states. She has also been smart in her utterances against the Congress. She blasted the party alright, but has not said anything personally against Sonia or Rahul. That is designed to keep the support line open from the Congress, if need be and keep that one percent chance of a pre-poll alliance for 2019 alive, provided the Congress can bend to her whims. The BSP chief with zero seats in the Lok Sabha has outsmarted Rahul and the Congress both in perception and political astuteness.
The delegation consisted of the BJP’s Madhya Pradesh in-charge and party vice president Vinay Sahash... Read more