Like in war, in politics too there are big and small targets to destroy. This can be the only explanation for what seems to be a strange tactics of Mayawati, the four-time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. She and her mentor Kanshi Ram have had caused many surprises in the past as it is the only party which had seat-sharing or coalition arrangements with all its three political rivals - BJP, Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP). Even as the majority BJP government of chief minister Yogi Adityanath has now completed three-and-a-half years of his five-year term, Mayawati is seen cosying up to his party, and targeting more oppositon parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Congress.
Recently the saffron party had caused a flutter by keeping aside a Rajya Sabha seat for BSP candidate Ramji Gautam, even though his party had only 18 party MLAs in the state assembly, while a Rajya Sabha candidate required a minimum of 36 votes.
After much drama, nine BJP candidates and one each of SP and BSP were declared elected unopposed, as the nomination papers of an independent candidate were found to be invalid. During the run-up to the polls, Mayawati had suspended four of her 18 MLAs saying they had met SP president Akhilesh Yadav in a bid to get a second candidate of his party elected. In last year's Lok Sabha elections, Mayawati and Akhilesh had formed an electoral alliance against the BJP, with the latter calling the BSP leader as his aunt. The bua-bhathija (aunt-nephew) alliance could not stop the NDA winning 64 of the 80 seats, while BSP won 10 and SP had to satisfy with five seats.
Mayawati has maintained silence about the BJP governments at both the centre and the state, and her occasional statements earlier this year were more targeted towards the Congress led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who had aggressively taken up the cause of migrants of Uttar Pradesh during the Covid lockdown, and had arranged buses to transport them home from neighbouring Delhi and Rajasthan. The BSP leader vent her ire on the Congress as the most disruptive party, accusing Congress chief ministers Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan) and Kamal Nath - while he was in the saddle in Madhya Pradesh - of purchasing her party MLAs. She has also been unhappy that Priyanka has been encouraging the local firebrand Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad, who has been accusing Mayawati of neglecting her core constituency. Mayawati was also critical of Priyanka and her brother Rahul Gandhi visiting Hathras, near Delhi, to support the family of a Dalit who was raped and murdered. She was unhappy that Azad's Bhim army was providing assistance to the victim's family.
The BJP is happy that Mayawati is targeting other political parties instead of concentrating on the performance of Adityanath government. Congress alleges that Mayawati abandoned her long-held principle of not contesting bypolls, by fielding her party candidates in the 28 crucial assembly by-elections of Madhya Pradesh, whose outcome has a bearing on the future and stability of the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government. Congress has said Mayawati's candidates are only cutting opposition votes to help the BJP candidates selected by mainly by BJP's new convert Jyotiraditya Scindia. Ramji Gautam was BSP's election in-charge for Madhya Pradesh, and when Mayawati chose him as the candidate for the bonus Rajya Sabha seat last month, there were whispers that he was being rewarded for helping BJP in the central India state.
In Bihar, Mayawati and Azad are part of two smaller coalitions of parties. While BSP is with the RLSP of Upendra Kushwaha and the AIMIM of Asaduddin Owaisi, Azad has floated a party with similar sounding name: Azad Samaj Party, which is in alliance with even smaller parties. BSP leaders in Bihar have accused Congress of funding the electoral launch of Azad's party to cut into BSP votes. But it is a political reality that the BSP itself has not fared well in Bihar elections so far.
But the intriguing question is whether Mayawati's current hobnobbing with the BJP will continue till the UP assembly elections in the summer of 2022, by which time she would have been out of power for a decade. She might adopt a new strategy to stay relevant in electoral politics at that time.