UP election: Is Mayawati ‘biggest threat’ to PM Modi?

Written by | October 24, 2016 | 0

New Delhi: When Amit Shah, president of Narendra Modi’s ruling party, meets with the prime minister, he is sometimes asked a question he struggles to answer.

What is behenji thinking?” By “behenji”, or “older sister”, Modi means Mayawati, the enigmatic politician and former ruler of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. Modi’s keen interest in what the 60-year-old is up to reflects concern about his political prospects, amid an economic recovery that many poor Indians have yet to feel and rising social tensions among sizeable minority communities.

With a near-devotional following from tens of millions of people who, like her, belong to the bottom rung of India’s social hierarchy, Mayawati is emerging as Modi’s chief challenger in a key state election set for early next year.

Mayawati is the biggest threat to our victory, Sanjeev Balyan, a federal minister in Modi’s government, told Reuters. “The one who becomes the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh gets to be the most powerful political leader after the prime minister.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept Uttar Pradesh, home to 200 million people, in the 2014 general election, handing him the biggest parliamentary majority in three decades.

A repeat of that success would help Modi, who remains popular among most Indians, wrest control of the Rajya Sabha, making it easier than it has been to pass key reforms.

It would also significantly advance his chances of retaining power when India chooses its next prime minister in 2019. But violent attacks on Dalits, as those on the lowest social rung are known, are turning the opinion of some against the BJP and its Hindu nationalist supporters, giving Mayawati a new lease of life as she seeks a political renaissance.

Filed in: National

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