Lucknow: Unfettered defeat often propels politicians to promise introspection and admit that they failed to give voters what they wanted. Not Mayawati. After resigning as Uttar Pradesh's chief minister today, she praised her government for its hard work and introduction of reforms. Her defeat, she said, was a direct result of the communalization of the elections by the Congress and BJP.
Mayawati's attempt for a fifth term as chief minister was crushed by a state exhausted by corruption, poverty, and an administration that showed no interest in development. Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party won 80 seats, compared to the 206 it won in the last elections that had placed her in power. Not only did Uttar Pradesh punish Mayawati, but it turned overwhelmingly to her old political rival Mulayam Singh Yadav, giving his Samajwadi Party a whopping 228 seats - the strongest mandate for a party in UP in two decades.
Without referring to either him or his party by name, Mayawati said 70% of the state's Muslims, according to her party's analysis, had voted for Mr Yadav. For this, she said, the two national parties, BJP and Congress, must accept blame. Mayawati said the Congress created the problem with its hard-selling of a special quota for Muslims in jobs and universities. Hindu voters, she said, panicked and moved towards the BJP, which played into their fears that the Congress would promote Muslims at their expense. Meanwhile, Muslims found that the Congress was not a strong enough party to back. So they opted for Mr Yadav.
Further damage from the BJP, according to the Mayawati, came via its pursuit of upper caste voters and Other Backward Castes (OBCs). As a result, she said, these votebanks spread their support among different parties including hers. Once again, she claims, Mr Yadav benefitted.
Mayawati was quick to claim that her traditional vote-bank of Dalits or lower caste voters, stood by her. "I thank them from the bottom of my heart," she said.
The former chief minister's laser-like focus on spread of votes is understandable. In 2007, she arrived in power riding her version of a rainbow coalition - she had managed to pitch her Bahujan Samaj Party as a one-stop option for upper caste, Dalit and Muslim voters. Candidates for those elections had been carefully arranged to represent the different factions. And her much-analyzed social engineering worked, with UP giving its first decisive verdict in two decades. That meant Mayawati needed no partner to run the government in UP. And she became the state's first chief minister to complete a five-year term.
She said her party will work with its cadres on educating voters and freeing them from "this trap of Hindu and Muslim politics."
In UP, state governments are known for using their power to target political opponents, often by filing police cases against members of other parties. Combatting political vendetta may pre-occupy the former chief minister. But in Delhi, where she has 22 MPS in the Lok SAbha, Mayawati may become a favourite of the Congress. Its own miserable performance in UP and the four other states that just voted has left the Congress authority within the UPA collation at the Centre greatly diminished. Mamata Banerjee, the single biggest member of the alliance after the Congress, has been taking on the party repeatedly over crucial legislation and policy - she forced the Prime Minister to suspend his planned reforms in retail, for example. In addition to Ms Banerjee's wavering attention and loyalty, the Congress now has to deal with a rejuvenated Samajwadi Party. Mr Yadav has in the past rescued the Congress by voting with the government on important matters. His supersize victory in Uttar Pradesh will give him more bargaining power than ever before.