So there you have yet another prime ministerial aspirant throwing her hat in the ring. On Tuesday, Mayawati, the BSP supremo, marked her 63rd birthday with the usual overblown razzmatazz, what with a huge garland of marigolds, an outsized cake, and a clutch of hangers-on fawning over her, even as proud family members gawk approvingly at her extreme good fortune. Elsewhere in the State, party units, as expected, too celebrated the leader’s birthday, requisitioning huge cakes and sharing it with the cadres.
This time, it seems, there was such a scramble for grabbing the cake in some places that it led to physical bouts. And why not? After all, if the Dalit Leader can lavish a couple of lakhs on her birthday cake, her poor supporters too have a legitimate claim on the celebratory sweet savoury. However, this year was also remarkable for the guest who came to the birthday celebration. Akhilesh Yadav, the self-avowed Babua of the Bua, who had just hitched his wagon to her apron strings, wrapped her in a colourful shawl. But what followed held bigger significance.
It was the gratuitous declaration by Yadav that Mayawati was the combine’s candidate for prime minister in 2019. And he went on to say that with 80 seats, it was UP’s prerogative to give the country yet another prime minister. Mayawati, no shrinking violet herself, not only did not hide her ambition but insisted that UP alone would decide who the next PM is. So, in a matter of three days this is the second time the BSP-SP leaders have openly snubbed Rahul Gandhi. On Saturday, they contemptuously kept the Congress out of any consideration for their alliance, saying Rahul’s party has no presence in the largest State in the country. On Tuesday, they put paid to his putative claim to lead an anti-Modi alliance. Clearly, outside of his own party the Gandhi scion has few takers for the top job in the country.
Whether Mayawati’s claim on prime minstership will have any takers among the voters is far from clear, given that her image as one of the more corrupt politicians is so strong that it virtually disqualifies her from leading the country. Besides, a slew of investigations against her are pending. Now her new-found ally, who like her had humble beginnings, too is widely known to have amassed so much wealth that he might soon compete with his ‘bua’ on this score. For the record, in order to sound prime ministerial on her birthday, Mayawati issued a press statement, criticising the Congress for the time-bound farm loan waiver, arguing, instead, for a blanket waiver of all farm sector loans without any monetary or time limits.
She also asked her cadres to work for the success of the alliance candidates whether they belonged to the BSP or the SP. Given that she was so thoroughly rejected in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, it seemed she might find it hard to bounce back. But now she appears to be in her elements yet again, staking claim to prime ministership even before the election has been declared.
With Mayawati making her intentions clear, it is only a matter of time before another aspirant for the top job came forward. Mamata Banerjee, the West Bengal Chief Minister and boss of the Trinamool Congress, has never hidden her own ambitions for the top post. That is why she has most disdainfully rejected any truck with the Rahul Congress. Thus far, only the DMK leader Stalin has endorsed Rahul for prime ministership. Stalin has the luxury to do so since the Congress is barely present in Tamil Nadu while the DMK is virtually non-existent in the rest of the country.
The battle for Delhi is eventually fought in the Gangetic plains where Congress will face stiff competition for votes not only from the BJP but even from various regional parties. It is hard to see Rahul to be able to fulfill his ambition to reclaim the Delhi gaddi for the family without a significant number of seats from UP. Mayawati’s ambitions have put cold water on his dream, regardless of that boastful claim about the Congress contesting on its own all eighty seats in UP. In sum, Mayawati may not get anywhere near the prime minister’s kursi, but she has definitely ticked off Rahul for day-dreaming.