Indians who disrespect, disregard or harbour political allergy for Ms Mayawati, chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party, have an opportunity to redeem their biases. As of today, most political experts outline two possibilities while predicting the Lok Sabha election outcome.
One, the Congress may get an edge over other parties by getting at least 20-25 seats more than its nearest rival and thereby may be in position to cobble together new alliances after the election, disregarding past bickering, ideology and everything else.
The second probability is that Mayawati with, say, 50 seats (Uttar Pradesh plus Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and other states), and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief Jayalalitha (say with 30+ seats) or any other party or political bloc (non-BJP/non-Congress) able to get 35+ seats will dominate the post-election scenario to indulge in the exercise to form one of the most incestuous political coalitions in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, the BJP silently wishes that the Congress party's 'confidence' turns out to be 'over-confidence'.
Within the Congress, some leaders argue that if a weak 'alternative front' government comes to power, the party may see it as an opportunity to rebuild itself amidst the 'chaos' to pave a stronger road to power under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
Congressmen argue that Rahul should be prime minister of a 'stable' Congress government only or a Congress-dominated coalition. Congressmen see Rahul as the leader destined to rule the nation. So, they further argue that a 'go slow' policy to get to power, if adopted after the election, will not necessarily be construed as a weakness.
In short, the current chaotic news of breaking of alliances or cementing of existing or new alliances will remain on fluid political ground considering the no-holds-barred race to form coalitions post-election.
In view of it, if you encounter Mayawati in a strong position to seek her due in the centre-point of Indian politics on the evening of May 16, 2009 (the day election results will be announced), give her credit for sewing the unbeatable caste alliance within her party, says a New Delhi-based loyalist of the UP chief minister.
Mayawati announced the names of candidates for the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Utter Pradesh long ago. The BSP supremo is now making minor changes as the Congress and Samjwadi Party announce their candidates, he adds.
Last week, after losing the assembly by-election in Bhadohi, Mayawati has changed the Lok Sabha candidates of Bhadohi, Hardoi, Mirzapur and Kaiserganj.
Mayawati's ambition to take control at the Centre came to the forefront after her victory in the May 2007 UP assembly election. Since then, she has been strategising for the Lok Sabha election, which handed her the advantage of being an 'early bird'. Her two slogans are UP hui hamari hai, ab Delhi ki baari hai (UP is now ours, next is Delhi) and Gali, gali main macha hai shor, haathi chala Delhi ki aur (Every bylane echoes the elephant's march to Delhi).
One should not be surprised to know that Mayawati is turning out to be one of the most pragmatic leaders of India. Out of 80 Lok Sabha seats from UP, her caste/community combination for 2009 election will be somewhat like this: Dalits, 18 to 20 seats (18 reserved constituencies included); Brahmins, 25 seats; and Muslims, 20 to 23 seats.
Mayawati comes to the battlefield armed with a Dalit-Brahmin-Muslim combination once again. She has given around 10 seats to Other Backward Classes and three each to the Baniya and Thakur communities. If she wins impressively, it will be because of her "inclusive politics".
The BSP supremo has been working on the process of 'screening' candidates since early 2008. For every seat, she held meetings in Lucknow with her party's zonal co-ordinator, district president and Lok Sabha constituency co-ordinator. She instituted a 'constant mechanism' to monitor the major changes in the Lok Sabha constituencies.
Party managers told Mayawati that the Bhadohi by-election was lost because the BSP candidate's bright chances were sabotaged by his own family members.
Mayawati is also focussing on breaking the Muslim-Yadav combination of the Samajwadi Party. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's desperate visit to Doeband on March 4 made this evident. All leading Hindi newspapers splashed photos of Mulayam capitulating before senior Islamic teachers of Deoband with embarrassing photo credits.
It is common knowledge that in UP a sizable population of Muslims resides in around 25 of the 80 Lok Sabha constituencies and in some another 15 constituencies they are a decisive vote-bank.
Mayawati is working with a killer instinct while the Congress and the BJP are in the field with survival instinct. Her party is putting all efforts to win either Amethi (Rahul Gandhi) or Rai Bareli (Sonia Gandhi), claims a party leader. That is enough to demonstrate our Madame's confidence, he explains.
SP is the only challenge to Mayawati, but they have not taken her head-on in the streets of UP in the last 22 months of her rule, BSP leaders point out.
The BSP's latest assessment is that it should get 47-52 seats in UP if the election is multi-cornered. The Congress-SP alliance will hurt the BSP's prospects, says a BSP loyalist based in New Delhi.
He says when the BSP is pitted against SP, charges of corruption and issues of law and order, supporting criminals in politics and favouritism don't stick as the latter too faces similar charges.
Mayawati has done the unthinkable in the last few months. She has legalised encroachment on government land by poor people. If someone has for instance encroached 100 sq m, she has allowed 30 sq m to be retained by the person.
Schemes like the Kanshiram Avas Yojna and Mahamaya Awas Yojna are her trump cards for the Lok Sabha election. She has also 'corrected' the scheme by allowing upper caste poor to take advantage of the schemes for the poorest of poor in the state. She has already started work on the Noida to Balia road route, terming it as the Grand Trunk Road of the 21st century.
A Mayawati loyalist sums it up for rediff.com: Hamari madame sarkar se zyada party chalati hai (Our Madame runs the party more than the government).
My gardener Raghav, who comes to work on a bicycle from a village situated 13 km from the Delhi-UP border, gave me 'balushahi' (a UP delight) last month because his family had been given pattas of cultivable land of three acres by the revenue department.
I asked him, who gave you this land? 'Madame Mayawati ne diya (Madame Mayawati gave it),' was Raghav's reply.