Friday, December 16, 2011

Will Mayawati spin her web again?

New Delhi: The phenomenal rise of Mayawati, the chief minister of India’s most populous and key electoral state of Uttar Pradesh, didn’t happen overnight.

After years of playing the Dalit card extremely well and known as the single-most entity that brought a complete paradigm shift in the electoral pattern in Uttar Pradesh, she now enjoys a charisma not even her Bahujan Samaj Party’s founder Kanshi Ram could have had ever imagined for himself.

Mayawati hit global news this September after a WikiLeaks cable dated October 2008, sent by the US Consul in New Delhi, said she was “obsessed with becoming prime minister”, was dictatorial, and paranoid about her safety.

She has built her private road from her residence to office, employed seven personal cooks and two tasters. She once dispatched her empty private jet to Mumbai to buy her favorite brand of sandals. An enraged Mayawati called the “owner” of WikiLeaks a lunatic!

The supposed champion of the downtrodden and “backward” classes, Mayawati now eyes 2012 state elections and 2014 general elections.

In India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, ‘Behen’ Mayawati is working round the clock.

From inaugurating a Rs 684 crore Dalit Park, titled ‘Dalit Prerna Sthal,’ to sacking corrupt ministers at her whims and fancies, Mayawati and her party know exactly that the vote bank politics is hot and this is the time to strike the gold.

"They did to Baba Ramdev exactly what they did to Anna Hazare two months down the line," amicus curiae Rajiv Dhawan told a bench of Justice B.S.Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar, referring to a statement by the home minister saying that he (Ramdev) would be thrown out if he does not agree with the government.

The apex court took suo motu cognizance of the incident after counsel Ajay Agarwal moved a petition seeking its intervention. Though the court declined to entertain his petition, it took suo motu cognizance of the police crackdown.

Dhawan told the court that "this was one of the huge campaigns that the government wanted to get rid of. It feared that it may go out of hand".

"A decision was taken that Baba Ramdev would not be allowed to organise any protest or undertake any fast-unto-death at Ramlila ground and that if he persisted in his efforts to do so, he would be directed to remove himself from Delhi," Dhawan said quoting from a press release issued by Home Minister Chidambram on June 8.

The 2012 assembly elections are round the corner and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has begun hectic parleys with district magistrates, district police chiefs and other top officials of the state to ensure an effective administration.

Amid all this, she has not forgotten to stir up the caste cauldron.

Apart from planting statues of Dalit leaders all over the state and most importantly her own too, she has even made a pre-emptive strike by warning the Dalit community of cunning opposition plan.

In a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Dalit firebrand has demanded a hike in the existing quota for the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST), besides making provision for their reservation in the private sector, including the judiciary.

In a first, she has made a bid to reach out to Muslims – again, a constituency once loyal to the Congress, which moved to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and now seriously seems to be weighing its options about throwing in its lot with the BSP.

But, the four-time chief minister, whose latest stint started in May 2007, doesn’t seem to have the traditional anti-incumbency beast nipping at her heels this time, says a media report.

The BJP yatras have fanned out across the state accusing the BSP and her supremo of wasting public money in parks and statues.

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi is already touring different parts of the state. In his own unique style of wooing, he’s started having meals at the Dalit and Muslim households, apart from, of course, spending ‘quality’ time with these families! He will shortly launch a roadshow in UP.

The move has not gone well with Mayawati and she feels threatened.

The Samajwadi Party state president Akhilesh Yadav, son of former Chief minister Mulayam Singh, has pedalled hundreds of kilometers on a ‘cycle’ as he led the party’s Kranti yatra against the corruption in the Mayawati Government.

Last but not the least, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare’s team also visited the state recently and targeted Maya on the issue of corruption.

According to a media report, she has spent over $4 million from the state’s contingency fund without budgetary approval on renovation and new construction at her bungalow.

In its report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India criticised the chief minister for gross financial mismanagement on memorials of her mentors and infrastructure and irrigation projects, which led to a loss of millions for the state exchequer.

How her priorities are misplaced is known from the fact that when she was inaugurating the Rs 684 crore Dalit Park at the outskirts of New Delhi, a mere Rs 18 crore was sanctioned by her government to control Japanese Encephalitis, a disease that killed over 400 children in Gorakhpur district alone this year.

But there is hope in the hindsight. The India Human Development Report 2011 has complimented Mayawati for improving marginalised Dalits and tribals in her state.
The verdict is clear. If she wants to come back to power with a thumping majority and keep her prime ministerial dream alive for 2014, she needs to focus more on improving the socio-economic conditions of Dalits and other backwards in her state than inaugurating expensive parks.