Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati is a busy politician nowadays. After the disastrous Assembly election of 2012 and Lok Sabha election of 2014, the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, was not much in the headlines.
The communally charged ambience in UP didn't see much of the Dalit leader as it witnessed the serious tussle between the BJP and the ruling Samajwadi Party. While the SP swept the Assembly polls in 2012, the BJP replicated that act two years later.
The BSP, which had the third-largest vote-share in the Lok Sabha election, couldn't even a seat in the state which was brushed saffron.
But now, 14 months ahead of the next Assembly election in most populous state of the country, Mayawati is slowly but steadily stealing the limelight. And she is doing it with great political skill.
Mayawati woos Muslims after backing Dalits...
The BSP chief on Sunday, which was the 23rd anniversary of the demolition of the Babri mosque, called the disputed site as Babri Masjid and said it was being destroyed by communal forces.
She also said the demolition had taken place on the death anniversary of Ambedkar, who she called a secular. She said the BJP-led government at the Centre was ignoring the cause of both Dalits and Muslims.
This came just six days after her speech in Parliament on November 30 when she made her opponents understand that she would not allow them to inherit Ambedkar's legacy, come what may.
She said on that occasion irrespective of the powers that have ruled at the Centre, the latter has always overlooked the Dalits' interests and even raked up the recent issues of killing of two Dalit kids and the controversies over a central as well as Haryana BJP ministers' ‘humiliating' the Dalits, the last instance involving a high-rank woman police officer.
She also sought again the quota for poor upper caste besides favouring reservation benefits for Muslim and Christian Dalits, tribals and OBCs.
Mayawati's style will baffle her opponents
This shows the BSP chief is playing it at various levels. She has not just focused on playing an Opposition's role vis-à-vis the SP but also to the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre. She is also extending issue-based support to the Narendra Modi government, as it was seen in the case of the GST Bill.
Socially, she is up for a grand social coalition
Socially, the BSP supremo has been equally tactical and is not allowing her opponents to arrive at a specific conclusion about her strategy. Mayawati has slammed both the Congress and BJP for overlooking the Dalits over the years and is also openly wooing the Muslims.
If both the Dalits, who had flocked to the BJP during the Lok Sabha election, and the Muslims, who are known to be a support for the SP, flock to the BSP along with the Brahmins, who have little representation in parties like the SP and BJP, and the most backward classes, then the BSP will have almost an unstoppable run in the next UP polls, just as it was in 2007.
The Sarvajan vote bank or rather a rainbow coalition will be Mayawati's trump card.
BSP has already mobilised its organisation for 2017 polls
In terms of organisation, too, the BSP has already embarked on a mission to return to the centrestage of electoral politics. The party's top leadership is laying out the agenda while the foot soldiers are busy communicating at the grassroots level.
Going by the reports, the BSP has also finalised 90 per cent of its candidates for all the 403 seats in the 2017 polls and some of them are even out facilitating their cause in a battle which is still over a year away.
Dalits and Muslims are two strong pillars for BSP
The party had seen a section of its core Dalit constituency going away to parties like the BJP in search of ‘acche din' which Modi had promised ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
But now the party is working on that and the return of some key Dalit leaders back in the party's fold suggests that Mayawati, who belongs to the Jatav community, may not have to worry about the Dalit vote-bank at all in 2017.
Speaking about the Muslims, the community might not have started moving away from the SP, but issues like Muzaffarnagar riots, Dadri lynching and the ambience of ‘intolerance' might see them inching closer to the BSP, given the fact that Mayawati had given a riot-free administration when she was last in power. The SP, on the other hand, is bearing a heavy burden of anti-incumbency and might not be equally preferred.
Mayawati is also emphasising on governance issues this time
An added feature of Mayawati's ‘Mission 2017' has been her stress on the politics of good governance and development (the support for GST is an example). Unlike the previous times, the BSP chief has not encouraged the indulgence in erecting statues and her party is emphasising on peace and rule of law in the state, which may increase her appeal to the electorate a notch better over rivals SP and BJP.
Mayawati is winning just where SP let it go
To conclude, Mayawati and the SP leadership are doing the exact opposites now while preparing for the big test of 2017, which will have its relevance in the next Lok Sabha elections. Mulayam Singh Yadav's party did itself enough disservice by walking out the Grand Alliance in Bihar that humbled the BJP of Modi and Amit Shah.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav might be dreaming about his father becoming the prime minister with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi as his deputy, but the ground realities reflect something completely different at the moment.