NEW DELHI: The Modi government enters into its second year with a major--”shameful” as Congress leaders put it---defeat in Uttarakhand where the wheel of fortune set into motion by the BJP top brass and the state Governor, finally stopped at the door of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat.

Smiling broadly, in visible relief, Rawat held a press conference sending out conciliatory signals to even the BJP, as he thanked all who had supported him and the Congress government through the stressful weeks where the rug was pulled out from under his government, defections engineered, and Presidents rule imposed. A strong fight back by the Congress party through the courts has finally ensured justice, with the Modi government being left with no recourse but to withdraw Presidents rule and pave the way for the restoration of the Rawat government in the state.

But in the midst of the bitterness of this “troubled” chapter, as Rawat put it, was the one significant development noted by the political spectrum preparing for the crucial Uttar Pradesh elections, now just eight months away. The decision by Bahujan Samaj party leader Mayawati to support the Congress in Uttarakhand with her two MLAs voting accordingly, was done quietly, but firmly, giving a clear indication that the BSP is looking now towards the Congress as a possible ally in Uttar Pradesh.

Mayawati won the state elections in 2007 with a Muslim-Dalit vote combination. She is hoping to repeat this in the 2017 polls, given the growing Muslim disaffection with the Samajwadi party in the state. A large section of the Dalit vote, particularly the youth, had gone to the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, with the BSP now stepping up its campaign in what it has always regarded as its core vote.

Mayawati who has been rarely visible in the last few years, is now taking positions in Parliament, and while she takes care to appear independent, her criticism of the Modi government has been noted. On the Rohith Vemula issue, the BSP leader was particularly vocal, and sought to pin down the HRD Minister Smriti Irani with her pointed: Is there any SC/ST member in the enquiry panel appointed to look into Vemula’s suicide?” The Rajya Sabha was adjourned as BSP members trooped into the well of the House raising slogans against the government. And later Mayawati reminded Irani of her promise to cut off her head if she failed to answer the question.

"I request you Mayawati ji, I am ready to give a reply. I have been listening to your demands since the morning. And if you are unsatisfied with my reply then I will cut my head and put it on your feet," Irani had said in the Lok Sabha. After her response two days later Mayawati reminded Irani, "She told me that if I am not satisfied by her response then she will chop her head off and place it on my feet. I am not satisfied with her response, so she should give me her head but I am sure that she will not do such a thing.”

In the same debate Mayawati said, "Her (Irani’s) comment on Mahishasur has insulted the Dalit and the Adivasis of the nation. It was shameful and she put forth a distorted version of the truth and our party condemns it. Those who wrote the Indian mythology have pinned Mahishasur's faults on the Dalits and the Adivasis and they have been portrayed as people who never respected women, whereas they were those who protected Sita.” She went on to add, "If the government does not want to do anything for these two communities, then at least they should stop insulting them. They should start by sacking VK Singh who called them animals.”

This face off had an immediate impact in UP with a poster surfacing with Mayawati in the image of goddess Kali, slaying Irani. This led to a war of words between the BSP and the BJP, with local leaders BSP leaders having taken credit for the poster that was eventually removed. But not without sending out the message that Mayawati was not one with the BJP, rather opposed to it. However, despite this, opposition leaders had told The Citizen that there was real floor coordination with the BSP as Mayawati was clear about following her own agenda, and joining the Opposition on issues that she agreed with.

The decision to support the Congress party in Uttarakhand, sources said, is being seen as significant as this has opened the door for negotiations for UP. It is being interpreted as a gesture by ‘Behenji’ to the Congress party that has been looking at the possibility of some sort of revival through a ‘go it alone’ strategy. However, as sources said, the opening is not necessarily for an alliance but for an understanding and a post poll alliance that works for both.

Mayawati has always been seen as something of a dark horse even in UP. She shuns the media till today, her occasional interaction being limited to reading out a statement and leaving without answering questions. Her party leaders are not encouraged to meet the press either, and follow a strict code of discipline that prevents them all from working the headlines, and attracting attention. She demands regular reports from the legislators about their constituencies, and often sends ‘observers’ to check the veracity of these. During election campaigns she insists on a schedule of public meetings from the candidates, and has others reporting back on the success or otherwise of these. She knows the pulse of her basic vote bank and as sources said, she has realised the potential of the Rohith Vemula issue that has struck a chord against the BJP amongst the Dalit youth in UP.

In Lucknow Mayawati is seen as an able administrator, with low tolerance for crime, and with the ability to clean up policing and the administration. In Muzaffarnagar during the violence, just before the 2014 general elections, villagers pointed out to The Citizen that Mayawati’s scheme of bringing in police SHOs from districts outside their own had worked well until it was reversed by the Samajwadi government.