Kahani Uttar Pradesh Ki: 1985 Bijnor by-election, when a 27-year-old girl was ‘won’ even after losing, then became the first Dalit woman CM

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Lucknow
That was in December 1985, after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, by-elections were being held in the country. Political heat was being felt in western UP even in the cold of December. A 27-year-old girl wearing a salwar suit was campaigning in a carrier behind a cycle in Kairana’s Al Darmiyan area. One of his supporters was riding a bicycle. She would signal, stop the cycle, then she would sit on the side of the road and eat food, talk to the youth and the elderly and then increase the cycle and go to another area.

There are two pictures in this story, first, the election campaign in those times was very simple and without Lashkar. Second, the girl we are talking about lost this election, but still with her aggressive campaigning and provocative speech, she gave great tension to the ruling party Congress. There was discussion all around after the results. We are talking about Mayawati.

Mayawati’s speeches used to be very sharp. The terminology was awkward. A new era of Dalit discourse had begun. Mayawati had come in the form of new politics and used to come into the discussion about her words.

Suryamani Raghuvanshi, Editor, Bijnor Times

Paswan and Meira Kumar were in front of Mayawati
The seat fell vacant after the death of senior Congress MP from Bijnor, Girdhar Lal. In the by-election to the SC reserved seat, Congress had given ticket to Meira Kumar, daughter of Dalit poster boy Babu Jagjivan Ram, who had left his foreign service job. In front of him was then Lok Kranti Dal (LKD) leader Ram Vilas Paswan who won the Hajipur seat in Bihar by a record number of votes. In front of both of them was independent candidate Mayawati, who was contesting her first election.

There was a wave of sympathy for the Congress in the whole country
Mayawati was a member of the Bahujan Samaj Party till that time but the Election Commission registered her as an independent in the by-election as her party was in the early stages. The party was formed in April 1984. of Jayabrata Sarkar Politics as Social Text in India: The Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh This election is mentioned in the book. It is written that after the death of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, there was a wave of sympathy for the Congress in the whole country.

In the 1985 by-election, the Congress felt that it would win easily due to the sympathy factor, but the BSP’s strategy was clear to snatch this opportunity from the hands of the Congress. This stand of BSP was going in favor of LKD member Ram Vilas Paswan.

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Mayawati had come into the limelight with her provocative speeches
It is written in the book that Mayawati was touring the Bijnor constituency for the last six months and her flamboyant speeches had made headlines by the time the elections came. Seeing Mayawati’s popularity rising, Congress was in trouble. An easy-to-win election had once become a prestige election for the Congress. However, the election strategists of the Congress did not miss the opportunity and campaigned continuously.

This by-election was a high profile election. On one hand, the then CM Veer Bahadur Singh was in support of Meira Kumar. He had put the entire army in Bijnor for two-three days for election campaign. At the same time, many leaders including Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sharad Yadav were camping in Bijnor for several days to campaign in support of Paswan.

Suryamani Raghuvanshi

‘A new era of Dalit discourse had begun’
Bijnor Times editor Suryamani Raghuvanshi says about that by-election, ‘Mayawati’s speeches used to be very sharp. The terminology was awkward. A new era of Dalit discourse had begun. Mayawati had come in the form of new politics and used to come into the discussion about her words. There were speeches that created caste frenzy. In front of him were Ram Vilas Paswan and Meira Kumar. Both were from Bihar.

He further explains, ‘There was a high profile election. On one hand, the then CM Veer Bahadur Singh was in support of Meira Kumar. He had put the entire army in Bijnor for two-three days for election campaign. At the same time, many leaders including Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sharad Yadav were camping in Bijnor for several days to campaign in support of Paswan.

Meira Kumar File

Suryamani explains that Mayawati was new to politics. So his enthusiasm and hard work was visible in the election campaign. She used to campaign for elections sitting on a cycle carrier. She used to go from village to village. She used to eat food among Dalits.

In the 85 by-elections, people came to know for the first time that Mayawati is also a personality. There was an interesting election. There was a time when BSP was slowly coming up. In the next election she was elected MP from Bijnor and then in 1995 the first woman Dalit CM of the country.

Brijesh Shukla, Senior Journalist

Meira Kumar got victory in the competition of thorns
Meira Kumar had won by just 5,346 votes in the contest. In this exciting election, Meira Kumar won by taking 1,28,101 votes. Ram Vilas Paswan got 1,22,755 votes. The most shocking result in this election was Mayawati’s. In the race for veterans, Mayawati had secured 61,506 votes and stood third. He got 18 per cent votes from SC and Muslim community.

Mayawati file photo

At that time, 39 per cent of the population in the Bijnor Reserved Lok Sabha constituency was Muslim while 23 per cent of the population belonged to the Scheduled Castes, of whom 20 per cent belonged to the Jatav community. While Mayawati had mobilized important sections of the Scheduled Castes, the Shah Bano episode had created a feeling of insecurity in the party due to the decline in Muslim vote share.

‘When people came to know that Mayawati is also a personality’
Senior journalist Brijesh Shukla says, ‘The politics of the country was changing, BSP was slowly taking root. In this election, there was Meira Kumar, daughter of Indira’s special Jagjivan Ram, and on the other hand Ram Vilas Paswan, who was an aggressive leader of Dalit politics. Used to win elections from Bihar. Mayawati was completely new in front of him. So getting 61,000 votes was not a small thing.

He further explains, ‘In the 85 by-elections, people came to know for the first time that Mayawati is also a personality. There was an interesting election. There was a time when BSP was slowly coming up. In the next election she was elected MP from Bijnor and then in 1995 the first woman Dalit CM of the country. When Mayawati took oath as CM, then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao called it a miracle of democracy.

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