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BSP Launches Election Campaign From Agra- A Ground Report

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) opened up its campaign for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections scheduled for early next year with a massive rally in Agra on Sunday, August 21. Hosted at the Kothi Meena Bazaar ground in the heart of Agra, this rally witnessed huge turnout of supporters and workers. The main plank of the rally remained anti-incumbency against the incumbent governments both at the central level and the state level.

Most roads leading up to the rally were packed with supporters waving blue flags with pictures of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and Mayawati on them. There were also pictures of the social reformers and leaders of the yester-years such as Jyoti Rao Phule, Savitri Bai, Chatrapati Sau Ji Maharaj among others. All the prominent leaders of the BSP at the state and national level were present on stage.

The predominant mood of the rally, as can be gathered from the speeches of various leaders including Mayawati, was to target the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government at the centre and Samajwadi Party (SP) government in the state for failing to fulfil their promises made to the people of the state and country, specifically those who belonged to economically weaker, socially backward castes and communities. With its slogan of “Sarvajan Sukhai, Sarvajan Hiati”, BSP leaders projected the party as the only alternative for different sections of society, including poor, backwards, minorities, businessmen etc.

Some attacks were also made at Indian National Congress party, but on the whole it was dismissed as an insignificant force in the state. Strong references were made to attacks on Dalits in Una and also to Rohith Vemula’s death in what can be seen as a clear indictment of the BJP government at the centre and the party itself. Mayawati also ridiculed RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s appeals to Hindu men for producing more children, questioning how poor people can support big families in present times. At the same time the party also consistently attacked the SP government for the law and order situation in the state.

A huge turnout was witnessed in and around the venue of the rally. A predominantly male dominated turn out comprised of people of all ages. Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram remained the dominant personalities who were alluded to in the rally cheers and songs suggesting that the party supporters still identify majorly with the two stalwart leaders responsible for mobilising the Dalit-Bahujan movement. Party leaders acknowledged the mass support, thanking them for “turning the city blue”. The huge tent erected in the middle of the ground was in fact running short as the crowd of supporters were spilling out of it in the empty spaces beside.

As already mentioned the crowd mostly comprised of men, yet it was well managed. Traffic on the streets outside the grounds was still moving without much hindrance. Appeals were being made from the stage manager to the crowd to maintain discipline, something which he remarked that BSP supporters are known for.

There was the usual rhetoric in the speeches of the leaders. There were slogans, famous couplets and also mockery of the popular leaders from other parties and their slogans as well. But at the same time there were also attempts to project the party as being different from others. It was referred to as being the only party with values of “samta” (equity), “samprabhuta” (sovereignty) and “mamta” (compassion) inherent within it. Some slogans also captured the importance of self-respect and self-worth.

The overarching emphasis of the event was upon the appeals for making Mayawati the Chief Minister of the state again and also projecting her at the national level subsequently. Elections in 2017 remained an important agenda for the rally, making this the official start to election campaigning for the party for the state assembly elections.

On the sidelines of the rally there were heartening scenes of people thronging to the small book shops staged near the entrance of the rally ground. The books included works of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Kanshiram’s speeches, E.V.R Ramaswamy’s works and many other commentaries and critical works on caste system, Hindu order and other socio-political issues. Besides these, there were also pictures and posters for sale, of leaders and reformers such as Ambedkar, Phule and Savitri Bai among many others. 

It will be interesting to see how and when other parties respond to this rally in the coming days.

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