Lucknow : Every political leader who has even the tiniest stake in Uttar Pradesh politics, was seen making a beeline for Hathras in the past one week after the death of a 19-year-old Dalit girl, following assault by four upper caste men that caused national outrage.
BSP supremo Mayawati, who positions herself as the undisputed leader of Dalits, however, has been conspicuous by her absence in Hathras.
Though she has been regularly tweeting about the incident and demanding action, her absence has sent a wrong message in her own constituency.
For those who have watched Mayawati over the years, her behaviour on this issue did not come as a surprise though.
As Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and party president, she never stepped out of her ivory tower to meet those who were made victims of atrocities even then.
In 2014, when two Dalit girls, both cousins, were raped and hung from a tree in Badaun, Mayawati did not step out of her house to meet the bereaved families.
The BSP was, then, in opposition while the Samajwadi Party was in power and Mayawati could have used the incident to strengthen her base among Dalits. Instead, she chose to confine herself in her home and merely issued a statement condemning the twin murders.
Sources close to the BSP president claim that she does not move out into the rural interiors because she is allergic to dust — a reason that holds no water if one is in active politics.
Another problem with Mayawati is that she does not trust anyone in her own party to represent her at such occasions. If anyone tries to exceed the brief, the person is shown the door.
The BSP, therefore, is never seen holding protests or staging demonstrations even at the district levels.
“The problem with Behenji is that she is living in a time wrap and does not realize that things have changed. There is a new generation of Dalits that wants participation in power. If anyone tries to give suggestions to her, it is nothing short of blasphemy,” said a senior BSP MLA.
Mayawati’s refusal to interact with her constituency directly has now given an edge to Bhim Army chief, Chandrashekhar Azad, who is slowly, but surely, establishing his presence in Dalit politics in Uttar Pradesh.
For example, in the Hathras incident, Azad reached ground zero and stayed for hours with the victim’s family while Mayawati simply tweeted her concern — tweets that majority of Dalits probably did not even see.
Mayawati is mistaken if she thinks that Dalits have no option but the BSP.
The Bhim Army is catching up from behind and doing it rather fast.
A former BSP leader who has now joined Bhim Army, said, “Chandrashekhar is a phone call away for his party workers. He is always available for anyone who wants to meet him.
“With Mayawati, there was never any hope of getting to meet her. She never developed a second-rung leadership inside the party and we could never depend on her during any crisis. Her style has been adopted by her brother Anand and her nephew Akash. This will bring the BSP to its end.”