The BJP may have sacked its Uttar Pradesh unit vice-president, Daya Shankar Singh, for making a shameful, stupid and what can turn out to be a politically suicidal reference about Mayawati, but the damage is done.
Its like bolting the stable after the Elephant has bolted. And this elephant is surely is on the rampage.
Daya Shankar is on the run. His cell phone is switched off. And his family is on the receiving end of equally shameful comments by BSP supporters. The Thakur backlash may follow and the BJP may feel the squeeze from both ends of the caste spectrum, but right now the focus is on how Mayawati has returned to occupy the centre-stage in UP politics. The BSP-supremo has once again emerged as the most powerful and popular voice of Dalits across the country.
One burst of callous insensitivity by its UP leader and the BJP is licking its wounds; picking the pieces of its much touted outreach amongst Dalits, which was flagged off by no less a leader than Amit Shah – who went dining at a Dalit home in Uttar Pradesh recently.
UP elections are still a good 7-8 months away and that’s a long time in politics. But for now Mayawati has seized the initiative. The controversy could not have erupted at a better time for the BSP-supremo. A few senior party leaders had deserted her recently and though she was still seen as a front runner in UP by many observers, there was no mistaking a strange sense of fatigue and tiredness amongst her supporters. There was a growing perception that her charisma was on the wane and her core constituency (Dalits) was no longer ready to blindly obey her.
But Daya Shankar’s insult has changed all that. Mayawati is once again the rallying point for Dalits. Her honour is again their honour, her humiliation once again an attempt to humiliate and put down the entire community. The BJP tried its best to contain the damage by wasting no time in taking action against Daya Shankar, condemning his remarks and apologising. But once she saw an opening, Mayawati is far too experienced, seasoned and crafty a politician to let such an opportunity slip by.
She has seized the moment with both hands. And how!
She is back in her elements. Imperious, imposing and scathing. She even compared herself to a Goddess saying that she is treated like one by Dalits. If Mayawati was representing any other community but Dalits she would have been severely chastised for making such a remark. But her supporters love her for saying just these kind of things. When Mayawati wears flashy diamonds, is garishly garlanded by currency notes , treats her party colleagues like minions and occupies , majestically, the lone chair on the dais whenever she addresses a public meeting, she may come across – to many of us –as someone who is dictator like , uncouth and too full of herself. But not to her supporters.
They love her for her imperious behaviour. Something they have long associated with leaders and rulers of upper caste – their long time oppressors. For them, Mayawati’s behaviour is an act of catharsis. Payback-time. Doing unto others what others have done to them for centuries. The more crude , brash and rude Mayawati gets , the more her supporters see her sitting on the same perch which till recently was the exclusive preserve of those , upper caste rulers, who had exploited , humiliated and shamed them for centuries.
One slip of Lotus and the Goddess is back.
And so are her Bhakts.