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Mayawati’s direct appeal to the Muslim voter exposes yet again the hollowness of Indian ‘secularism’

The “Mahagathbandhan” in Uttar Pradesh is an alliance between one out of touch Shehzada and another exceptionally arrogant politician who takes her core voters for granted.

There is this thing about Mayawati that makes her think she is above everything: the Constitution, the law, the nation, the people and basic decency.

Mayawati ‘warning’ Muslims at a rally in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Who helped her think this way? It was the secular ecosystem, ever obsessed with the mission of castigating Hindu society, that always gave a wide berth to her because of her Dalit identity.

Who in their right mind can deny that Dalits have faced prejudice and oppression for centuries and are still systematically disadvantaged in a thousand different ways? But the matter hardly ends there. Show me a single person who has ever reaped an actual tangible benefit from Mayawati being in power except for Mayawati herself and her family members? Did Dalits benefit? Ha!

First of all, as a truly hardcore supporter of free speech, let me say I do not support any action by the EC or any other legal coercion against her in any form because of this statement. Every single time the EC has ordered “bans” against speaking about an issue during election campaigns, whether it be Sabarimala, or Godhra or appealing for votes on basis of caste/religion, I have opposed it. Every person, including politicians, has a right to ask for votes based on absolutely anything, as long as they do not make credible threats of direct violence.

My stand is principled. The liberal stand is not.

A few days ago, when PM Modi spoke about Rahul Gandhi picking a seat where “majority is minority and minority is majority”, the liberals came down on him like a ton of bricks.

And of course, the world-famous spinner and Madison Square boxer decided to lie outright about what PM Modi had said, twisting it to “Wayanad is a place where WE are a minority”. PM Modi literally never said that. Madison Square Boxer made it up. That’s his job. He is a liar.

Where are those liberals now? Have they reacted to Mayawati’s direct call to Muslims?

Of course, they have. But in a very different way. They have not reacted with outrage but with irritation. Complaining that Mayawati’s unguarded statement might cause reverse polarization and hand over a big advantage to BJP. They are probably right about that part.

But think about the mentality underlying what liberals are saying. They only appear to be blaming Mayawati for “giving the game away”.

In other words, what liberals are really saying is that Mayawati should not have made the covert campaign overt. Perhaps they are saying that Mayawati should have waited till the demographics of UP becomes like that of Wayanad?

In this election, everyone has been forced to play Hindu. The agendas have been hidden away for the moment. Like Kamal Nath would say, he would deal with the Hindus later (“nipat lenge”).

But liberals are right in worrying. Mayawati’s remark has given the BJP a big opening in Uttar Pradesh and particularly Western Uttar Pradesh. She made this statement at a well-publicized rally in Deoband (the heart of Dar ul Uloom) with 4 full days to go for voting in just the first phase on April 11. Uttar Pradesh will be voting in seven full phases. With cable news widely reporting her statement, the remark being all over social media and in this era of Whatsapp, she has given a LOT of time for BJP to let every Hindu voter in UP know about this. In fact, she has given just enough time for every Hindu voter to hear about it, but not enough time for Hindu voters to forget about it.

Hindus have notoriously short memories. History bears witness to that.

Another fact that we should not lose sight of is that Mayawati’s remark is most disrespectful of her core voters, the Dalits and in particular the Jatavs. Because Dalits and Muslims often have similar socio-economic situations, it is Dalits who face the brunt of the violence when things go wrong on the ground. In such situations, the “secular” political forces always come down on the side of the “minority”, taking Dalits for granted. Mayawati has just made it official: she takes her Dalit, especially Jatav voters for granted. It is the M vote that she is really interested in.

This is the fundamental reason that “Dalit + Muslim” has never worked as a winning electoral combination, despite being the ultimate fantasy of every JNU comrade.

If it is any consolation for Mayawati, she is not the only one trying her best to make the Mahagathbandhan lose the election in Uttar Pradesh. Akhilesh has been contributing his fair share.

Samajwadi Party to levy 2% taxes on ‘upper caste elites’

Apart from seeding an ugly discourse around caste based taxation, this proposal also shows that UP’s junior Shehzada has a puzzling lack of political savvy. He is doing this in the one state in India where “upper” caste votes make a real impact? Seriously?

Think about the household wealth of Akhilesh’s ruling family. Presumably, this 2% tax would not apply to him because he is “backward”. It would apply to so-called “upper” castes, 99.99% of whom would likely never be half as rich as he is. This is an outright injustice. And electorally foolish.

And I am sure Akhilesh has a political “guru” somewhere who can parachute in and make it worse by saying that honest taxpayers are “selfish”. Yes, please pay some more tax so that the poor poverty-stricken Akhilesh can get his bungalow furnished even more lavishly the next time he becomes CM. He will, of course, be taking the furnishings with him, from the tiles to the taps, when he leaves office.

Add this to Akhilesh’s promise of creating an Ahir (Yadav) regiment in the military. Actually, M+Y is not a winning combination in itself. It used to work because “Y” would attract other OBCs to coalesce around the most dominant OBC group. The secret to Amit Shah’s success lay in convincing the non-Y-OBCs to move to BJP, along with non-Jatav-Dalits. You would think Akhilesh would know he needs to bring the non-Yadav-OBCs back to SP. But then you are not thinking like a disconnected Shehzada who has been thrust with greatness by India’s secular ecosystem.

In brief, the “Mahagathbandhan” in Uttar Pradesh is an alliance between one out of touch Shehzada and another exceptionally arrogant politician who takes her core voters for granted. They think they have an arithmetic advantage, but remember that Uttar Pradesh has delivered “surprising” results in every Assembly and every Lok Sabha election right since 2007. Watch this space.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a columnist and author.  

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