No Manifesto, Only Performance"
By Vidya Subrahmaniam
27 September, 2006
The BSP is on the
up and up in Uttar Pradesh.
Today the BSP is the number
one party in U.P. Our performance has been excellent at all levels.
In recent months, we have swept the panchayat polls and won crucial
Assembly by-elections. The just concluded biennial elections to the
Rajya Sabha is further proof of our growing strength. As against 67
MLAs in the State Assembly, we got 98 votes which means that as many
as 31 MLAs — or nearly half our strength in the House —
voted for us cutting across party lines. Of the three BSP candidates
for the Upper House, two won comfortably, and a third, who had no votes,
secured 14 votes. This despite voting in the Rajya Sabha being open
to scrutiny. Had voting been by secret ballot, even our third candidate
would have gone through. In the Vidhan Parishad, where voting is by
secret ballot, the BSP secured three seats, one more than expected.
Naturally, our opponents are in a state of panic.
Not just in U.P, we are forging
ahead everywhere. In the two and a half years since I became national
president of the BSP, our vote has gone up across the country, and in
some States we have picked up seats for the very first time. We now
have an MLA in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. In Delhi, our share of the
popular vote has gone up to six per cent, in Madhya Pradesh to seven
per cent, in Bihar and Chhattisgarh to more than four per cent and in
Rajasthan to nearly four per cent. We are contesting the ongoing elections
to the State Assemblies of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala, and West
Of late, you have
been making overtures to the upper castes. Why is this so?
The majority of the people
in our country are poor. Even among the higher castes, it is a small
percentage that is privileged, the rest are poor and have the same wants
of roti, kapda aur makan (food, clothes and shelter). They also need
to feel safe and secure. U.P has been ruled successively by the Congress,
the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Samajwadi Party. In all this time,
the MLAs and Ministers looked after themselves, but did nothing for
the suffering common people. The Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes
and Muslims have long been treated as vote banks by these parties. But
it is not as if the upper castes were happy in these regimes; the proof
is in their large-scale migration from U.P. to other States.
It took a while for
you to shed your anti-upper caste image.
That is because of two factors.
First, propaganda by my opponents who used the media to malign the BSP
and misrepresent our ideology. Once we came to power, people were able
to judge us for themselves. Secondly, how much time did I get in my
first two stints in government? I formed a government thrice —
for four and a half months in 1995, for six months in 1997, and for
15 months in 2002. As we spread our message, attitudes changed and we
came to be seen as hard working and trustworthy. As you can see, our
growth has been phenomenal. Why? In my first stint, I put in work equivalent
to four and a half years; in my second, it was equivalent to six years;
and in my third, it was equivalent to 15 years. My Government worked,
it enforced law and order. I cracked down on crime and locked up criminals
who enjoyed power and patronage in previous regimes. My message was
so strong that the few that remained fled the State.
I created employment opportunities
and implemented welfare schemes. Yet I did all this without making promises,
without a fantastic manifesto. The BSP never releases manifestos. We
don't believe in promises. We believe in performance, we show by action.
Our message is that the BSP is your party, our ideology is your ideology.
What is the BSP's
We are for an equal social
order. Social inequality and discrimination result in economic inequality.
If there was no social inequality, if opportunities were truly equal,
there would be no economic inequality. Our aim is to establish a samata
muluk samaj (a society based on equality). The Congress and the BJP
twisted this to say that we are against upper castes. After we came
to power, State bureaucrats, and even the media, were able to see how
wrong the propaganda was. Right from my first stint as Chief Minister,
I have always ensured diversity in my ministries and the bureaucracy.
I gave the ticket to upper castes, made them Ministers each time I formed
a government. After my three stints in power, the fear that I'm for
a single community, that I would discriminate against other communities,
has been completely shed. Today, there is complete trust between the
BSP and the upper castes.
So is this an ideological
shift? You used to speak so vehemently against manuwad.
I am still against manuwad.
What is manuwad? It is division of society into four varnas. The BSP
wants to end this discriminatory order, and we have succeeded to quite
an extent. As upper castes integrate with Dalits, mutual suspicion and
hatred will end. This is samajik parivartan (social change).
The BSP is more a social
revolution, a political movement than a political party. We want to
bring in true equality which is in the interest of both country and
society. The Congress and the BJP want the opposite, they talk of unity
but thrive in disunity. The hatred between castes and communities we
see today is a result of the policies of the Congress and the BJP.
The Congress treated its
voters as votebanks. That is why today its base (Muslims, Brahmins,
Dalits) has disintegrated.
How does the BSP
work on the ground? You do it almost silently.
Ours is an ideological fight.
So the first essential is to create a base (in the States) that will
carry our message far and wide, that will motivate people to join us.
Thereafter, I myself campaign. We go step by step, following a long-term
strategy of building durable bases.
Even in U.P. we made slow
but steady progress. The key difference between the BSP and other parties
is that our base is not made up of defectors. Our strength is our ideology.
We depend, not on individuals,
but on the ideological commitment of our cadre and the conviction of
our voters. That is why each time the BSP splits, the party emerges
stronger. Our voters do not leave us.
How do you evaluate
the status of Dalits since the coming of the BSP?
Today Dalits are aware of
their rights, they know how to fight for them. They have gained self-respect
and learnt to differentiate between parties that use them and parties
that represent them and deliver. If anybody raised social and political
consciousness in U.P it was the BSP. Mulayam Singh has formed an alliance
with the TDP, which had an alliance with the BJP in the State and at
the Centre. Muslims should ask him about this.
Yet the SP did rather well
in the May 2004 general election, it won 35 seats.
If Mulayam Singh was not
in Government he would have got zero seats. We got 19 seats and lost
another five to six by a margin of 500 to 600 votes. Had there been
free and fair elections, we would have finished right on top.
If you feel that Mulayam
had the advantage of being in power, how can you be so sure of doing
well in the coming Assembly election?
Today the climate [has] changed
in U.P. People have woken up. They are so vigilant that they will make
sure elections are free and fair. Today nobody can rig the polls.
What happened since
May 2004 that the mood has changed in your favour?
My Government had complete
control on law and order. Mulayam Singh has reversed that. In the last
20 months, there has not been a day without murder, dacoity or abduction.
Criminal elements are on the rampage and there is no administration
worth the name.
Development has come to a
halt. Anybody can see the difference between how it was in my time and
how it is now.
The Manmohan Singh Government
is contemplating reservation for OBCs in educational institutions. Do
you support it?
I welcome the move but question
the Congress' motives. Reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes is not anybody's gift. It was enshrined in the Constitution thanks
to Ambedkar. Why did it take the Congress so long to extend it to OBCs?
This should have been done 40 years ago.
When do we see Prime
We are a recognised national
party that is growing day by day. In the next election in U.P. we shall
form a government by ourselves with an absolute majority. I'm sure we
will reach this goal at the national level very soon.
2006, The Hindu.
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