Once upon a time it was an ominous sign—Bahujan Samajwadi Party President Mayawati lavishing praise on her lieutenants would evoke fear and retribution, for it would not be long before they were expelled for their perceived challenge to her primacy. The hapless party spokesperson and former Lok Sabha member Rashid Alvi was the last to learn the lesson the hard way three years ago, and he was soon consigned to the gallery of ex-loyalists.
So, it is with extreme reserve and caution that the three aides de camp—the BSP Brahmin mascot, Rajya Sabha MP and Maya’s closest confidant Satishchandra Mishra, Muslim leader Nasimuddin Siddiqui and OBC leader Babu Singh Khushwaha—accept Maya’s accolades for their enterprise, labour and dedication towards expanding the political base of the BSP just wide enough to win a stunning majority in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.
The word is clear—walk by her side, never in front of her; outshine in your task, not your leader; accept her paramount stature, and all is well. Question it, and you are at the deep end.
Mayawati has always been a loner, and rigidly so over the years, yet she has picked up a motley group of faithfuls—from the travel agent she always used, Pawan Sagar, who rose to become her OSD to serve in all three governments, her telephone operator and now OBC mascot BS Khushwaha, to Sagar’s wife, Poonam, who ran a beauty parlour and was instrumental in Maya’s makeover from behenji to ‘mod behenji.’ The latest to join the ranks is Mita Gautam, daughter of a serving district judge, who is being groomed by Mayawati as a possible party woman leader. Maya not only gave Mita a ticket from Fatehpur in Barabanki, but also funded her election, say insiders. She won.
He has been a close aide of Mayawati since 1995 when she first became chief minister. He has never contested any election but has always enjoyed power as a member of the Legislative Council. Not many know that he’s the president of the youth wing of the BSP. A trusted lieutenant of Maya, Naseemuddin is the party’s troubleshooter. He’s also been the party’s fund manager from the time the party was founded. It was only after the gala mela of Dalits held in Lucknow in 2003 that Naseemuddin became part of Mayawati’s inner circle. Naseemuddin, who belongs to Faizabad, has been minister three times and is the most prominent Muslim face of the party.
Former president of the Lucknow University Student Union (LUSU) and a confidant of SC Mishra, he is part of the BSP’s brahmin brigade. Pathak left the Congress to join the BSP in 2003. He contested the Lok Sabha elections from Unnao and won. Once Mayawati begun wooing the Brahmins, Pathak’s stock in the party began to rise. Over the years, he has organised several Brahmins sammelans and played an important role in distributing tickets for these assembly elections. Despite all this, he keeps a low profile, preferring to stand behind Behenji on all public occasions
He is the architect of the BSP’s experiment with social engineering that brought the Brahmins and the Dalits on one platform. The lawyer regularly shares the stage with Mayawati and on a few occasions has dared to do what no one else has: interrupt her. It was in her previous stint as UP’s chief minister that Mayawati made SC Mishra the state’s advocate-general in 2002. He was later elevated to the post of national general secretary of the Bahujan Samaj Party and went on to become a member of the Rajya Sabha. While Kanshi Ram and Mayawati both believed it was imperative to expand their party base, it is no coincidence that Brahmins were given prominence only after Mishra’s entry into the BSP fold. Now with more than 40 Brahmin MLAs in the BSP, SC Mishra is perhaps the most powerful man in BSP. “After aligning with Behenji, my perception about this party has changed,” says Mishra. His family now frequently visits Mayawati’s Mall Avenue residence and they are the only ones to share the stage with her family at her lavish birthday bashes.
Babu Singh Kushwaha
He was first inducted in the party as an office employee. In 1994 he was shifted to Mayawati’s home where his job was to answer the phone. In just a year, Khushwaha became a Mayawati confidant and took charge of her office affairs. Mayawati sent him twice to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council. Now he always accompanies her on visits outside Lucknow and in her company prefers not to talk to anyone.
She’s the woman behind Mayawati’s makeover. A beautician, Poonam entered Mayawati’s inner circle after the BSP chief started visiting her parlour sometime in 1995. Soon after Poonam closed down her Indiranagar parlour and began working with Mayawati. The frienship paid rich dividends for the beautician. Mayawati ignored all protests and accorded the status of state minister on Poonam by appointing her chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Women’s Commission. Despite her association with Mayawati, Sagar remains a stranger to party members. With Mayawati’s return to power, Poonam’s comeback seems a certainty.
A Delhi University professor, Sudhir Goyal is a regular at all BSP events. His association with the party goes a long way back—he was with Kanshi Ram during the days of the Dalit movement and later joined the BSP.
A member of the Legislative Council and the party spokesperson, apart from SC Mishra, he is the only authority in the BSP who is permitted to speak on party matters. He looked after the party’s media interactions during the current assembly elections and is expected to play an important role in the state once Mayawati takes charge.
He was a travel agent who hired out taxies to the BSP till 1995. That brought him in touch with Mayawati and soon he became a part of her office. His big break came in 1997 when Mayawati appointed him her Officer on Special Duty (OSD). Like others in the BSP, Pawan shuns the limelight and refuses to talk to the media. Even now at party functions, he’s the man who arranges the catering.
Swami Prasad Maurya
On legislatives matters, it’s Swami Prasad Maurya who Mayawati turns to for advice. Just how influential Maurya is became clear when he got Lalji Verma elected as the BSP’s state president. Maurya may have lost in the current assembly elections, but he is sure not to lose power. His proximity to Mayawati will probably win him some plum post—every time Mayawati has taken over as chief minister he has been rewarded with a ministership.
Yet another acolyte of SC Mishra and Brijesh Pathak, Dubey joined the BSP in 2003 and has been active in organising Brahmin rallies. His major success was a rally of Brahmins in Pratapgarh, the den of Raja Bhaiyya. A member of the Bar Council, Dubey was given charge of organising a Brahmin rally in Lucknow in 2006. The rally was a success and so was Dubey. In the just concluded election, he won the Mahona seat for the BSP. Once a Brahmin leader, Dubey has now prefers to greet people with a ‘Jai Bheem’ rather than a namaste.
A trusted lieutenant of Mayawati, he’s been with the BSP since its inception. Mayawati, who sent him to the Rajya Sabha, asks him for his opinion on all party matters. In fact, she had even anointed him as her heir when she feared she would have to go to prison in the Taj Corridor case. Azad was an employee in the Department of Telecommunication when Kanshi Ram asked him to join the Dalit movement. Azad is hardly ever seen on the dais with Mayawati but that’s not a comment on his importance within the BSP. He has a say in all party matters.