After the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in 2012, it seemed like the era of Mayawati was over. All the scams in her government, plus the massive statues in the parks she built - these are routinely tolerated from other leaders, but for a Dalit woman at the head of a Dalit party to do so! Her upper caste support evaporated...
Now her star is on the rise again. Which is good. As a health activist, I am dismayed at what happened to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) under her. Almost all the funds were siphoned off during her tenure - though some accused are behind bars and others committed suicide, crucial time and money were lost. Since the Samajvadi Party (SP) government took over, health services have improved slightly, as has rural transportation among other things.
But, at the heart of it, the SP is a Yadav party in a society that is relentlessly casteist. A few days after it came to power, a Yadav farmer in Pisawan block, Sitapur dt. fired at a neighbouring farmer (who happened to be Dalit) because apparently the latter's cow had entered the former's field. There may be a back-story to this, but the general feeling was that the Yadav farmer would not have dared to take up a gun when the BSP was in power. Later, Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (SKMS) activists were beaten up by police in Qutubnagar when they had just gone to the chowki to give their side of a village dispute. The policemen asked which caste they were before thrashing them. To get an FIR filed in this matter, SKMS had to agitate for more than a month.
I don't think I need to state what the BJP stands for in its 'karmabhoomi' UP.
Coming back to Mayawati, maybe most of what she did when in power was symbolic, but symbolism matters in a society that is so unjust and unequal. Security and respect are pre-conditions for any social improvements. So here's hoping that if BSP comes back to power in the 2017 elections (and there is now at least a chance for it), that they will not squander this opportunity. Because, like it or not, unless the challenges of our most populous state can be tackled, our nation's progress will always be incomplete.
Note: After I posted this on Facebook, my nephew (Vishesh) remarked that what remains of the Congress UP state unit could fit into a Nano! Strangely, I didn't even think about the Congress when writing this :)