‘Had the State Guest House Incident not taken place, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) would have ruled Uttar Pradesh’ — the seemingly ordinary statement not only brought the 28-year-old incident back to the fore but also created a buzz in political circles, especially at a time when SP is looking to forge an anti-BJP alliance by uniting regional parties ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha Polls.
The statement came after Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav recently garlanded the statue of BSP founder Kanshi Ram at a programme in Rae Bareli. “The SP chief should introspect and remember June 2, 1995, when a ‘Dalit Ki Beti’ was attacked at Lucknow’s guest house during the SP government’s tenure,” Mayawati said.
The 28-year-old incident that brought the SP and BSP at loggerheads is relevant in UP politics till date. Political pundits say the incident still haunts Mayawati and the statement is a clear signal from the BSP that the two parties will not align again.
“The BSP supremo’s statement shows the incident is a thorn in the flesh and thus SP and BSP will not be together anymore,” Shashikant Pandey, head of the department of political science at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow, said.
What is the Guest House Incident?
The episode can be traced back to when the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was at its peak but the SP and BSP coalition successfully stopped BJP from winning UP in 1993.
However, the alliance lasted for only two years, resulting in the failure of SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government in 1995. This, however, was just the beginning. On June 2, 1995, after the BSP announcement to withdraw from the coalition, an unruly mob of SP workers and supporters attacked Lucknow’s Meerabai guest house where Mayawati was in a meeting with her MLAs.
According to reports, her room was vandalised, casteist remarks were thrown at her and Mayawati had to lock herself in a room to save her life. Eventually, BJP MLA Brahm Dutt Dwivedi stepped into the room and escorted her to safety.
What led to the incident?
In 1993, following the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya, UP was swept by a saffron wave. The SP and BSP decided to join forces and contested the assembly elections, winning 176 seats out of 424 in the undivided state. With support from the Congress and others, the SP-BSP coalition formed the government with Mulayam Singh Yadav as chief minister.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party, with 177 seats, was left out in the cold, with no party willing to join it. However, in 1995, the BSP withdrew its support from the government due to deteriorating relations with Mulayam. And shortly after, the BJP offered outside support to Mayawati, who then became the chief minister.
However, this is not the first time the guest house incident has hogged headlines. In 2019, when the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ or Grand Alliance was formed under the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati and Rashtriya Lok Dal’s chief Ajit Singh, the episode once again found mention, recalls Pandey.
The Grand Alliance was anti-Congress and anti-BJP. Of the total 80 seats in UP, the Grand Alliance left two seats for then Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi to whom BSP had declared its support. “But the arrangement failed to make any difference as BJP, with Narendra Modi, managed to bag 51.19 per cent vote share while the vote share of ‘Mahagathbandhan’ was 39.23 per cent. Congress managed to score a mere 6.41 per cent votes. BJP bagged 62 seats whereas the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ bagged 15 seats in totality,” pointed out Pandey.
He added: “It was during ‘Mahagathbandhan’ that she had highlighted the issue again and stated that she had forgotten it.”
Besides, Mayawati also held a press conference in 2019 with Akhilesh Yadav where she said: “Lucknow guest house kaand se desh hit ko upar rakhte hue humne saath aane ka faisla kiya hai (We have decided to forget the 1995 guest house incident for the benefit of the country).”
While some believe the infamous episode still haunts the BSP supremo, a section of political experts blames Mayawati for playing the ‘emotional card’ in order to retain her Dalit vote bank despite the electoral reverses in the 2022 UP polls. The BSP won just one seat in the UP assembly election in 2022. The, pundits, however said instead of such tactics, Mayawati should focus on making a comeback in her original firebrand form.
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