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Will Playing Dalit Card Help Mayawati Fend off Tough Questions on ED Raids?

Lucknow: Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) chief Mayawati may have tried to give a caste spin to the Enforcement Directorate raids but it will not be easy for her to fend off uncomfortable questions on the source of Rs 100 crore found in her party’s account.

This weakens Mayawati’s moral authority on targeting the Modi government on demonetisation, giving Opposition specially the BJP and the Samajwadi party a reason to target her on issue of corruption and black money.

On November 10, couple of days after Prime Minister Modi announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, Mayawati lashed out against the Centre, calling the decision anti-poor, illogical and aimed at crippling Opposition parties before the crucial UP assembly polls.

Her press conference was also seen as an attempt to assert that, contrary to general perception, her party’s financial interests were least impacted by the Modi government’s decision.

Since then, and all through the stormy winter session of Parliament, Mayawati had been at the forefront of the attack against the Prime Minister and BJP.

In the process she raised her party’s stakes in poll-bound Uttar pradesh and, according to political observers, pitched herself as the strongest opponent to the BJP.

But with ED raids, Mayawati may find it difficult to convince the public at large.

Though her explanation – “The money deposited came as donation from party members and sympathisers. All transactions had been as per IT laws. There is nothing illegal about it”‎ – may be sound in law.

Despite caste being a dominant reality, it’s a fact that in UP a mounting surge of people’s expectations in recent years have forced political parties to commit more to agenda of development and clean governance. This was perceptible in the 2012 Assembly and 2014 Lok sabha polls. It’s on this front that the latest disclosures could affect the BSP leader’s image.

It’s not that Mayawati is not aware of this danger. It’s probably because of it that Mayawati was quick to give it a caste spin and slam it as an act of political vendetta. Questions about BSP’s fundings and allegations of sale of tickets in Assembly and general elections are not new.

Mayawati has also predicted that the Centre may open the Taj Heritage Corridor case and the disproportionate assets case against her.

But will Mayawati’s allegations of caste victimisation help her deflect uncomfortable questions?

“It’s an often repeated and baseless defence by Mayawati. Racking up the caste sentiments won’t help her,” said BJP MP and Dalit leader Udit Raj.

‎However a bigger and a more systematic counter attack came from Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Denying any foul play behind the ED probe, Prasad said: “It was a routine exercise. BSP needs to reply to the queries. Development of Dalits cannot be subjugated to any one leader or party.”