Mayawati’s resignation from the Rajya Sabha was meant to be high drama, but it ended up as low farce. Had it not been for our deep respect for the Bahujan Samaj movement, we would have probably laughed at her desperate attempts to remain relevant. It is time to pronounce the verdict loudly: Mayawati has failed. Every politician gets an opportunity to re-wire or re-engineer oneself. This is Mayawati’s opportunity to take a political U-turn and bounce back. She may well do it. But as of now, she is demonstrably a disaster and a dead weight on the country’s Dalit politics. The saddest irony of Dalit politics is that Mayawati’s failure is at the cost of Dalit votes. Her Bahujan Samaj Party garnered 22.2 per cent of popular votes in the recent UP elections. But she could win only 19 of its 403 assembly seats. This is the best instance to explain the limits of identity politics. Mayawati polled most of the Jatav (the dominant caste among Dalits of Uttar Pradesh) votes, but that wasn’t enough. The limits of identity politics in the electoral arena are that no single social group can win an election without political or social alliances. That is the reason why Laloo Yadav of Bihar had assiduously cultivated the Muslims to design the MY or Muslim-Yadav alliance.
Mayawati’s hubris doesn’t allow her to do any of this. She knows that the Jatavs have no alternative and that she is their undisputed leader. But why should any other social group vote for her? She claims that she represents minorities, but does she? She did not visit Muzaffarnagar during the 2013 riots, nor did she console the family of Mohammed Akhlaq, who was lynched in Dadri. She only represents Jatavs. Yet, she did not even find it important to visit Hyderabad to offer support to the striking Dalit students or to commiserate with the comrades of Rohith Vemula. Well, she has always believed that she was born to rule the Dalits. No wonder she never meets a single Dalit intellectual in Delhi.