As India’s government faces a crucial confidence vote on Tuesday, Dalit leader Mayawati has begun to assert herself as leader of a coalition that plans to grab power during the national elections in the coming months.
Mayawati, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, and President of the Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP)
The 52-year-old Mayawati, who stunned the nation by storming into power in India's largest state Uttar Pradesh last year, is now eyeing the post of Prime Minister. Politician Chandrashekhara Reddy says that she is fit for the post as she carries no ideological baggage. However, he says that the first effort of all the non-Congress parties should be to bring in a non-Congress government at the centre.
“If that becomes a reality, then we can have a clear discussion, and if Mayawati is one of the stakeholders to the prime minister’s post, definitely so many parties will come forward to support her,’’ he says. He added that the whole situation would depend on the results of the next general election.
Is Maya too confident?
The low-caste or Dalit czarina cosied up to the communists after the Left on July 9 withdrew support to the ruling Congress-led coalition over a nuclear deal with the US. But ruling Congress party leader Tom Waddakan says Mayawati must not count her chickens so soon.
“Who is going to be prime minister of this country? You have 60 parties, who are main players at the centre today. Which parties will go where, what kind of government will be formed, so many questions will go into this,’’ says Waddakan.
Playing right cards
Communists like D. Raja says the schoolteacher-turned politician would be the first Dalit woman to become the Prime Minister, and any progressive thinking party would support and welcome this. However, he says that that she would have to first help the left parties topple India's Congress party-led administration.
“The present situation is to defeat the Congress-led government during the trust vote. After the next general election, whatever scene emerges, all of us will sit together and discuss the future move,’’ says Raja.
But right wing author Chandan Mitra warns that Mayawati's dream of becoming India's first Dalit prime minister could turn to ashes if she did not play her cards right.
Support needed from national parties
He says that the support from the Left and the third front would not be sufficient to make her Prime Minister. “She will need one or the other of the national parties, namely the Congress or the BJP. But definitely she is working towards it, and she may just succeed in the end,’’ says Mitra.
Although she is the darling of the day, politicians fear Mayawati's brazen cross-caste strategy could upstage the so-called secular agenda of some of the players who have monopolised India's political arena since the country's independence six decades ago.