The 60-year-old Mayawati has weathered desertions by more than a dozen hardcore party colleagues in the past. Normally, the Dalit leader is known to be unshaken by adversities.
Not this time though. The resignation of Maurya, a close aide and leader of the opposition in the Uttar Pradesh assembly, took her by surprise.
Seen by her side for the last 20 years, that Maurya’s exit prompted an immediate response by Mayawati seemed to show how shaken she was. Indeed, many felt she was not her own self when she addressed the media.
Sources close to Maurya say he was feeling suffocated for long in the Bahujan Samaj Party and had been in touch with the BJP, including veteran leaders like Om Mathur.
The fact that she didn’t get a whiff of the high-level intrigue has also shocked Mayawati.
With assembly elections due in Uttar Pradesh only a few months from now, Mayawati realises that Maurya’s exit may dent her party’s prospects, if not alter them dramatically, the sources told IANS.
More than two dozen legislators of the party who are likely to have their ticket for the 2017 polls cut by Mayawati are learnt to be regrouping under Maurya.
Former minister Daddu Prasad and rebel legislator Rajesh Tripathi have already met Maurya. Some others are said to be in telephonic touch with him.
Mayawati’s worries stem from unconfirmed reports that the Bharatiya Janata Party wants “sleeper cells” within the Dalit outfit – to “explode” at the right time.
“The BJP is keen on creating a perception that the BSP is a sinking ship and that its very own are deserting it,” said a BJP source.
The BJP also wants to reinforce the allegation that Mayawati was not a “Dalit ki Beti” but a “Daulat ki Beti”.
The BSP is aware that Maurya, as the opposition leader, had good and warm relations with most legislators in the party as well as in other parties.
“His joining the BJP or SP will be a further blow to our electoral strategy,” said a party leader.
While there is speculation that the Samajwadi Party leadership was cool to the idea of embracing Maurya, the latter seems to be in no hurry.
Maurya, the sources say, wants to ensure that he does not end up doing a political harakiri and instead his move must pay dividends.
“But for some nuts and bolts, the deal with the BJP is almost through,” a close aide told IANS.
This is likely as Maurya late on Thursday attacked the Samajwadi Party, calling it a party of “goons”.
The BJP realises that as it tries to expand its social base in the state, Maurya could be a political big fish in its net.
At the same time, pundits admit that those who have deserted the BSP have not done well in the past.
Party stalwarts like Raj Bahadur, Dinanath Bhaskar, Sonelal Patel, Daddu Prasad, Jugul Kishore and Babu Singh Kushwaha quit the party, attacking Mayawati’s seeming lust for money and lack of loyalty for the policies of Ambedkar and party founder Kanshi Ram.
Having been ousted from power in 2012 and having drawn an embarrassing zero in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Mayawati has her job cut out.
Most people agree that the going has just got tougher for “Behenji” and her party in the country’s politically most crucial state.
By Mohit Dubey