BSP at 25 - travelling the electoral road to victory

April 13th, 2009 - 4:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Bahujan Samaj Party By Sharat Pradhan
Lucknow, April 13 (IANS) When it marks its 25th birthday Tuesday, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — one of India’s youngest political parties — will have plenty to celebrate.

In a country where parties decades old are in struggle mode due to growing fragmentation of the Indian vote, the BSP has mastered the art of winning elections and scripting history.

And, with an aggressive Dalit leader Mayawati leading it, the BSP is now in overwhelming command of Uttar Pradesh, having captured power in the country’s most populous and politically crucial state on its own in 2007, stunning its supporters and foes alike.

The unpredictable Mayawati, determined to win the maximum of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats, has set her eyes on the prime minister’s post although incumbent Manmohan Singh has ridiculed the ambition.

The BSP is also fighting almost all Lok Sabha seats across the country, giving sleepless nights to parties much older to it and also to political leaders more experienced than her.

Yet, when it all began, no one even remotely thought that the BSP would travel so fast — and this far.

It was on the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar April 14 that Kanshi Ram founded the BSP 25 years ago — with a mission to give the mass of Dalits a political platform he said they lacked.

He had begun as a social activist by organising the Backward and Muslim employees in the central government under an organisation he named Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF). That was in December 1978.

In three years, he roped in Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe government employees and formed the Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti, which popularly came to be known as DS-4.

The huge response he received to DS-4 from those who had always felt marginalised by upper castes, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, gave rise to his political ambitions.

Kanshi Ram then toured Uttar Pradesh extensively with a select band of supporters on bicycles, urging Dalits to unite. It was a quiet revolution that largely went unnoticed in the mainstream media then.

Once the BSP was launched April 14, 1984, there was no looking back. The BSP and Kanshi Ram were virulently anti-upper caste then.

History was made on June 2, 1995 when BSP took power in Uttar Pradesh, with the feisty Mayawati, a teacher from Delhi, becoming the chief minister.

That happened after a violent parting of ways between the BSP and Samajwadi Party, which had jointly fought the 1993 elections, held in the aftermath of the December 1992 Babri Masjid razing.

Political pundits had thought Kanshi Ram would become the chief minister. Instead, the BSP supremo chose to coronate his protege Mayawati.

Her government did not last more than four months. The BSP returned to power in Uttar Pradesh twice more with the help of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The first time, in March 1997, her government lasted only six months. The next time, in May 2002, it ruled the state for a full year.

His deteriorating health led Kanshi Ram to declare Mayawati as his political heir. Mayawati formally took over the reins of her party on Sep 15, 2003 as its national president.

Mayawati proved her mettle when she led the BSP, even in the absence of Kanshi Ram, to an unprecedented victory in Uttar Pradesh in the 2007 assembly elections.

Her style of working and her brazenness in some aspects of governance may have triggered controversies. But an undaunted Mayawati moves on, obsessively focussed on her ultimate goal - to rule India.

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