Lucknow: In politics, fortunes change overnight. They certainly did in Uttar Pradesh within just 24 hours for two players -- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
A resurgent BJP trying a shot at power in the state, after a 12-year exile, is suddenly at the receiving end and on the down-slide, thanks to its now former state Vice-President Dayashankar Singh's foot-in-the-mouth comment. And the BSP, rattled until now by a series of desertions by long-time party leaders, is cashing in on Singh terming its President Mayawati as "worse than a prostitute".
Those four words have suddenly made a see-saw change to the two parties' political fortunes in the state, bound for elections to its legislative assembly early next year.
No sooner than the regional channels beamed a bearded Dayashankar Singh telling reporters in Mau that the Dalit diva was selling tickets on a price tag and that even sex workers had better morals, the BSP pounced on it as a god-sent opportunity and the party is now at its vocal best to encash the issue politically.
It really does not matter that acting swiftly the BJP not only sacked the leader in question from all party posts and positions but also expelled him from the party for six years. An FIR has been lodged and Mayawati found almost all the opposition standing by her.
The BSP held demonstrations and staged sit-ins at many places in the state, including the state capital Lucknow on Thursday, decrying the utterances of Singh and called for his arrest and trial under relevant laws protecting the person and dignity of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes member.
While the BSP has called off the street agitation after the police assured the arrest of Singh within the next 36 hours, the party strategists, sources say, have already begun rolling out a plan wherein "the party revives the Dalit honour" under the garb of this issue. "This is a great insult not only of Behenji (Mayawati) but the entire Dalit community," roared Mayawati's close aide and former Uttar Pradesh Minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui.
Mayawati herself bared her action plan in Delhi when she said on Thursday that the agitation by her supporters and followers was justified as they not "only treated me as a leader but as a Devi (Goddess)". BJP leaders privately admit that a lot of damage has been done in one day, especially to their cause of making further inroads into the Dalit community.
"It's a sad turn of events. The entire party, especially the Prime Minister, are all for development and progress of Dalits and the marginalised," rued a state BJP General Secretary, admitting that Dayashankar Singh had in one stroke undone a lot of work done in cultivating the Dalit vote.
The outreach of the saffron camp has also been hurt by many incidents, right from the Rohit Vemula incident in Hyderabad to the recent attack on Dalit youths in Una in Gujarat, say party strategists. But many in the party say the unravelling of the BJP's Dalit dream is much of its own doing. Leaders like Dayashankar Singh, they say, were promoted out of turn and without any serious political thought.
Singh hails from Balia and was Lucknow University Students' Union president long back. The party played to him, thereafter making him its youth wing president, then giving him a state assembly ticket in 2007, and pitching him as its second candidate in the state legislative council elections this year. Though without any success, he was elevated as state party unit vice-president on July 12.
Arch rival Samajwadi Party, which cannot see eye to eye with the BSP, however, has sided with Mayawati on the issue of women's dignity and Dalit honour, at least publicly, and said that the former BJP leader would be brought to book. With elections to the state assembly just a few months away, the theatre of the absurd has just begun in Uttar Pradesh.
By Mohit Dubey