Assembly Elections: Is Brand Mayawati Dead?
Sutanu Guru chronicles the decline and fall of the 'tallest' BSP leader
There was a time when Mayawati and the BSP looked like emerging as a formidable national force. She surprised even her supporters in 2007 when she forged a formidable caste combination that included Dalits and Brahmins to win a majority in Uttar Pradesh. Her victory was as much a testimony of her political acumen as the decline of the BJP as a force in the state. By the time she rode to power without needing any "outside" support in Uttar Pradesh, the BSP had become a serious player in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Haryana. That was when Mayawati started campaigning across the country. And by the time the 2009 Lok Sabha elections loomed, she was convinced that BSP had a better than even chance of forming a government in Delhi with the support of "secular forces". After all, if H. D. Deve Gowda with just a handful of MPs could become prime minister to "stop" the BJP, Mayawati had far better credentials, including a "national" footprint.
But today, after the latest assembly election results, Mayawati looks like the biggest loser along with Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal. Akhilesh Yadav too has taken a terrible beating. But he has a political future at least in Uttar Pradesh. You can't say the same about Mayawati. She is no spring chicken when it comes to age. And apart from her, you can't even think of a single leader who take lead the BSP in the future. The fact is, the decline and fall of Mayawati began in 2009 when it completely failed to expand its footprint beyond Uttar Pradesh. It did reasonably well in Uttar Pradesh but the electoral dreams in other states came a cropper. Another nail in the coffin was hammered in 2012 when a youthful and "clean" Akhilesh Yadav led the SP to a decisive victory in assembly elections. Of course, Mayawati could regain confidence despite the loss because she still retained a 25% vote share, not too far behind Akhilesh Yadav.
And then a phenomenon called Narendra Modi happened in 2014. The tidal wave decimated all as a BJP alliance won 73 out of 80 UP seats and all five in Uttarakhand. The Congress barely saved face and dignity with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi winning their seats. Five family members of Mulayam Singh Yadav won five seats to again save face and dignity. But the real big loser was Mayawati. Her party was wiped out and has not a single representative in the Lok Sabha. There were hopes that a poor governance track record of Akhilesh Yadav would enable Mayawati to storm back to power in 2017. The narrative was: Modi might have worked in 2014, but 2017 was an assembly election where local factors would matter more. But the results have shown a mirror to her. Falling to just about 20 seats in an assembly of 403 seats is some "achievement".
Clearly time to think if the Mayawati brand is facing extinction.