The BJP in Uttar Pradesh is all set to pit former Uttarakhand Governor Baby Rani Maurya against Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati in the Assembly elections scheduled next year.
Baby Rani Maurya, party sources confirmed, would work towards making a dent in BSP's 'Jatav' vote base. Jatavs, till now, have been firmly behind Mayawati and Baby Rani Maurya also claims to be a Jatav.
When the former Governor arrived in Lucknow earlier this week, she was greeted with posters and hoardings that prominently showcased her Dalit sub-caste. And the message was certainly not lost in her community.
Rakesh Gautam, a Jatav student in Lucknow University, said, "Finally we have a choice. Till now there was no Jatav leadership except Mayawati."
A senior party functionary disclosed that Baby Rani Maurya will be addressing rallies in districts having a sizeable Dalit population.
"Till now we had focused on non-Jatav Dalits, but we will now target Jatavs because we have a Jatav leader of calibre," the functionary said.
Of the 21 per cent Dalit vote bank in Uttar Pradesh, Jatavs form a sizeable chunk -- about 11 per cent -- and this community has been the mainstay of Mayawati's political journey.
Any depletion in the Jatav vote base will spell bad news for the BSP.
When asked about her Jatav credentials being so prominently displayed, Baby Rani Maurya said, "I was born into this caste. My family was and still is into leather and footwear work. For nearly three decades, I have been with the BJP as a Jatav."
The BSP, meanwhile, has not reacted to Baby Rani Maurya's foray into UP politics.
However, a party MLA said, "It will take much more than one Baby Rani Maurya to challenge ‘Behenji' (Mayawati). Time will prove that she is the undisputed leader of all Dalits, including Jatavs."