Even if Mayawati manages a good number of seats from Uttar Pradesh, her ability to articulate a national vision for a ragtag coalition will put her skills to test
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati launched a blistering personal attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, drawing angry reactions from BJP leaders. By attacking the Prime Minister, the BSP supremo may have achieved the twin objectives of quelling the rumours of a possible post-poll tieup with the BJP and projecting herself as the Opposition’s prime ministerial candidate in case of a fractured verdict in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
Mayawati makes no bones about her prime ministerial ambitions these days. Addressing a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Ambedkar Nagar constituency last week, the BSP leader hinted that if things work according to her plans, she will contest from the seat that elected her four times to the Lok Sabha since 1989. By announcing this, she was clearly sending a signal to the Congress, regional parties and her supporters that she is a serious contender for prime ministership. Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, her ally in Uttar Pradesh, has been projecting Mayawati as the alliance’s PM candidate throughout the campaign.
The 62-year-old former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh is key to opposition parties’ bid to stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi from coming back to power. A runaway victory in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, had catapulted Modi to power in 2014. BJP had won 73 of the state’s 80 seats along with allies and a big fall in UP tally could spell trouble for Modi’s re-election bid. Maywati who enjoys unflinching support of the Dalits is one leader capable of tackling the mean electoral machine led by BJP president Amit Shah.
Mayawati is the tallest leader of Dalits who constitute close to 17 per cent of the country’s population and her party has a significant presence in many of the north Indian staes that gave Modi a resounding mandate in 2014. If her coalition with SP manages to restrict the BJP tally to below 30, she could dent Modi’s re-election bid and project herself as the most credible opposition candidate for the prime minister’s position.
To become the country’s prime minister will not be easy for Mayawati. India has a history of coalition governments at the Centre crashing under the weight of the ambitions of regional leaders and conflicting ideologies of coalition partners, lending little credibility to attempts to form coalition governments at the Centre.
She will also need the backing of the Congress and numerous regional parties if she were to stake claim to form the government at the Centre. Among her prospective supporters, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, TRS leader K Chandrashekar Rao and Telugu Desam leader Chandrababu Naidu are known to be nursing prime ministerial ambitions.
It is not the first time that Mayawati is projecting herself as a prime ministerial probable. In 2009, she attempted to lead a coalition of regional parties to wrest power at the Centre, but failed when the ruling UPA rode back to power on the back of a string of populist measures taken by the Manmohan Singh government.
The possiblity of Mayawati becoming the prime minister hinges on the ability of India’s divided opposition parties to restict the Bharatiya Janata Party from repeating its 2014 show. Narendra Modi continues to be the most poular political leader in the country, though various opinion polls show a fall in his popularity from the early days of his government. Modi has been questioning the intensions of regional leaders who are trying to oust him from power and their ability to provide a stable government at the Centre. Mayawati’s ability to articulate a vision for a ragtag coalition of disparate political forces will also be put to test if she were to get to clear shot at the highest seat of political power in the country.