Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) leader Kumari Mayawati, Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav and Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury sit together in the Rajya Sabha, so the likelihood of their thoughts rubbing off on each other are high. For example, Yadav, just like Yechury and Mayawati, has been critical of @narendramodi’s demonetisation drive that has thrown thousands of Indians off kilter, even though his party leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar remains supportive of the PM’s drive to finish black money.
With each day bringing us closer to the Uttar Pradesh elections, it isn’t surprising that Mayawati is trying to position herself front and centre in the anti-demonetisation campaign. All the social justice issues are now being linked to “demonetisation or #notebandi, to show that Modi doesn’t really care about the poor and needy -- many of whom also happen to be Dalit – which is why he couldn’t care less about thinking through the huge challenge that has been thrown up.
And so all the pro-Mayawati and pro-BSP accounts as well as several accounts dedicated to promoting Dalit issues (like @DalitRising) on Twitter have been leading with anti-demonetisation messages these past few weeks.
The official BSP account, Bahujan Samaj Party @BspUp2017 (with only 8683 followers, which only goes to show that the BSP party base is much more comfortable with old-fashioned tools of communication, such as door-to-door campaigning and mass rallies), makes no bones about the fact that its “only wish is to see Behen Mayawati Ji as next UP CM in 2017 and its aim is to achieve our dream,” has a caricature of Modi sitting on a lotus, with a saffron flag in one hand and a flag which says ‘Adani’ in another.
‘Kuchh ghante to guzaro sansad mein’ (at least spend a few hours in Parliament) goes the tweet accompanying the photo, while the hashtag alongside says, ‘Bank khaali, desh main kangaali’ (the banks are empty and the national coffers are empty).
The tweet is a reaction to Modi’s comment at a public rally in Gujarat on December 11, accusing the Opposition of holding up Parliament on the #demonetisation issue and not allowing him to speak, which is why he was being forced to address the House of the People (not the Lok Sabha, but the Jan Sabha).
Several @BspUp2017 tweets are retweeted by @BehanMayawati (only 2388 followers). Another Twitter account, Bahujan Samaj India @DalitSamajIndia, in a pinned tweet hashtag #MayawatiNextUPCM believes that Scheduled Castes plus Muslims plus OBC plus Scheduled Tribes will make up the winning combination for Mayawati in the coming elections.
Meanwhile, @DalitSamajIndia has taken it upon itself to retweet all things anti-Modi -- from a UN report which says that India has the world’s most hungry people as well as photographs of serpentine queues outside banks. A tweet that accompanies the latter says, “This time, when elections come, people who have never voted will stand in line and vote and take revenge for all that they have been forced to go through.”
With 20,000 followers, @AmbedkarCaravan is another Twitter handle that amplifies Mayawati’s political messages.
Truth Of Gujarat @TruthOfGujarat Dec 11
Modiji, this man has a message for you. His wife's been in bank queues everyday, daughter unable goto school, no money for winter clothes.
Seems the person behind this Twitter handle also has a sense of humour. One tweet depicts a Modi bhakt who is asked to describe himself in three words at a job interview. “Mandir wahin banayenge,” says the bhakt.
Other pro-Mayawati Twitter handles like Ambedkar Yug @jaibhimkranti and @KanshiFan have also taken to trolling Modi’s demonetisation drive as well as eulogies of Mayawati.
Interestingly, UP chief minister @yadavakhilesh doesn’t have one single tweet critical of demonetisation on his timeline in the entire last week. Young Akhilesh would rather tweet photos of himself – and his beautiful wife Dimple, MP from XXX and a big influence on his work – inaugurating gondola rides at Janeshwar Mishra Park in Lucknow, meeting Ratan Tata to set up electronic point of sales machines at fair price shops, meeting the football legend Ian Rush and even a photo of his daughter’s choir at La Martiniere school.
#KaamBoltaHai seems to be a favourite Akhilesh Yadav hashtag, there’s even a Twitter handle with the same name. But there’s very little or no criticism at all of Modi. Akhilesh seems far more interested in inaugurating the Lucknow Metro and showing himself to be a Man of Progress. Perhaps he is leaving the politics to his uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav @shivpalsinghyad, state president of the Samajwadi Party, brother to Netaji Mulayam Singh Yadav and according to many, the real power behind the throne.
It shows. All the announcements of candidates – as well as the odd tweet criticising Modi for demonetisation – occur on @shivpalsinghyad’s timeline.
The battle-lines are being drawn in Uttar Pradesh. Modi is campaigning by phone in Bahraich – bad weather didn’t allow him to travel there – and pushing the benefits of demonetisation daily on the Narendra Modi app. Meanwhile, party president Amit Shah has begun to promote the BJP’s plank of ending the “politics of caste and dynasty” in the UP elections and in its stead, pushing “politics of performance”.
At #AgendaAaj Tak, Shah announced, “kaala dhan chunaavi rajniti se bahar ho.” The campaign to eliminate black money (through demonetisation) should be outside electoral politics.
Perhaps the BJP party president, who was single-handedly credited with winning 71 seats in UP (out of 80, and then adding 2 seats won by Apna Dal when it merged with the BJP some months ago) is sensing the new direction of the wind, as it changes in UP, away from the BJP.