Saturday, December 19, 2009

[ZESTCaste] ‘Mayawati Is Insecure As A Woman And Dalit’

'Mayawati Is Insecure As A Woman And Dalit'

Shahid Siddiqui, 58, Editor of Urdu daily Nai Duniya, is better known
for his political avatar. A former close aide of Mulayam Singh Yadav
and Amar Singh, Siddiqui surprised many when he left the Samajwadi
Party after it bailed out the UPA on the nuclear deal. He switched to
Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, from which he was expelled without any
notice. A relaxed Siddiqui shared rare insights on the woman who runs
Uttar Pradesh, saying, "I never wanted to be part of her coterie
because to be in it, you also have to be sleazy." An edited version of
an hour-long interview with HARINDER BAWEJA

Photo: Vijay Pandey
Any regrets on being expelled?
Joining the BSP was the biggest mistake of my life. I thought I would
be working for Dalits, the backward, poor and for the minorities.
Minorities are like orphans in Indian politics, especially the
Muslims. Muslims cannot form their own party because that will
communalise Indian politics. They are taken for granted by most of the
political parties. I thought that with the Dalit-Muslim combination,
we can create a new politics in India. That did not happen because
there is no discussion on policies in the BSP. You are just dictated
because Mayawati is so insecure. She is terrified of the slightest
dissent or criticism.

Why is Mayawati insecure?
I think she is insecure as a woman and as a Dalit. Whether it was
Indira Gandhi or Jayalalitha, most women leaders at the top are
insecure. They think society is working against them. They become
aggressive and insecure. Another reason is that being a Dalit she may
be feeling that she is not accepted. It is a psychological thing.

You seem to suggest that insecurity and women go together.
No. They are targeted for their gender because politics is male
dominated. Indira Gandhi was targeted because she was a woman. Women
who have come into politics have come because of their male
counterparts, whether a father or a brother or a husband.

Are you hinting at Kanshi Ram being…
(Interrupts) No I'm not hinting at anything. Don't put words into my
mouth. In Tamil Nadu and elsewhere we might have had cases but I'm
also not against that. Any relationship that is open and honest is

Describe Mayawati's functioning style
I know Maywaitji since 1984 and knew Kanshi Ramji since 1982 when I
went to interview him at Regarpura, where he then lived in a small
room. And I have seen how hardworking he was. He was one of the great
Indian politicians who had understanding of Indian society. He was a
great sociologist. He knew the caste system and how it functions
better than most sociologists in this country. His mind worked like a
computer. I have seen him growing and I have seen Mayawatiji growing
in his shadow.
But I will give it to her that she built the party in UP, not Kashi
Ramji. That is her contribution. And I also respect her because she
came up, unlike so many alone. Kashi Ramji helped of course, but in UP
it was she who was building the party not Kashi Ramji. So at one point
she was extremely open with her workers. She used to mix with them.
But once power came, as she became important, she started distancing
herself from them, cut them off mentally. I have seen her erecting
walls around her. That I have seen. Today she doesn't want anybody to
tell her anything. Even small things like why the towel was not placed
on the chair properly. Because every chair, every podium is covered
with a towel. She is afraid of touching the bare ground with her bare
For little things she scolds her workers, yet I don't see anybody
really raising their voice. There was a time when people from
different Dalit organisations interacted and gave her feedback, but
not any more. Nobody in the party knows just who her advisers are…
mainly a few bureaucrats. And she has her own mind of course.
Today they ask me why I'm going to the media. Well it was Mayawati who
said you can to the media. You are only person who will be allowed to
go to the media and participate in the discussions.

Is she afraid of the media or does she think she can do without the media?
Both. She is afraid of the media and believes that it is dominated by
the upper caste who are anti-Dalits. She would also say, "I have
always won despite opposition from the media, so I don't need them at
all." What I had been telling her was that if you want to expand the
party you will need the media. With the Dalits you may be able to do
without the media, but today there's a growing middle class and even
people in rural areas have middle class aspirations. So I told her she
should try cultivate the media, even set up a media centre. But she
totally refuses to do that. The reason, I'm sorry to say, is that her
style of functioning is totally undemocratic, and the media asks
critical questions. And she cannot take that. She is unable to take
that. So that's her psyche. This could be because Dalits have been
oppressed for thousand of years and they think any hint of criticism
is an attack on their Dalit identity. And in the party of course
nobody speaks.

For public meetings people are brought from all around the state. She
herself comes at the last moment like a queen, speaks and goes away.
The point is this is happening with most of the regional parties, and
not just to BSP. This is because we have given the handle of the
anti-defection law to regional satraps as a result these parties, many
of them which were movements, like Lalu's party or the Akali Dal, have
turned into family enterprises. The family now has the power to throw
out anybody who disagrees with its functioning. So you have this
contradiction, where you have a democracy but political parties are
autocratic. Once in five years you have elections and for five years
you have autocratic rule by individuals – the chief minister or his
family or those who are financing them. I'm not speaking against
Mayawatiji or the BSP, but generally. I am making an academic point.
But it was not taken by them and I am not sorry for that. Mayawati
made an announcement, saying she was grooming somebody to take over.
Now who is this person?

You can call Mayawati despotic; you can call her arrogant, but you
have to concede that she is a grassrooots politician.
Yes, she is… she is… in fact she was. She was a grassroots worker for
nearly 20 years. But after she became chief minister three-four times
she grew so fond of these trappings of power that she gradually got
cut off from the grassroots. No party worker can meet her anymore.
Even as general secretary, I could not meet her. I made hundreds of
calls to Lucknow but still could not talk to her. You just talk to
Babu Singh Kushwa she says, and he says "OK, karenge karenge, baat
karenge". You cannot talk to her. Even in the Samajwadi Party and the
Congress you have meetings. The decision may be taken elsewhere, but
there is at least a pretense of democratic functioning. Here you don't
even have that much. She says, "Hamare samaj mein aise hi chalta hai."
Thing is each time she came to power lots of her partymen defected,
and this has made her extremely wary. This is why she keeps such an
iron grip on the party. Her reasoning is: "If I permit the slightest
dissent today, tomorrow a hundred more will be dissenting. So nip the
trouble in the bud."

You said that in the BSP one gets orders from the top and no
discussion takes place. What kind of orders did you receive? Say I'd
be told to go and campaign in some area or support somebody or… that's
it, and it happens very suddenly: "You have to be in Lucknow at 9 am
tomorrow." Now come what may, wherever you are in the world, you've
got to be there. You wait there, she comes, she makes her speech and
goes away. Most of the information comes through the party
coordinators who are briefed by people like Nasimuddin Siddiqui or
Kushwaha. There is no system.

In your 17 months in the BSP, how often did you talk to her?

That's it?
Yes. And that too with difficulty. In the BSP, there is no pretense of
democratic functioning. She is afraid because she has faced defection
in the past.

You have never had a one-on-one discussion with her?
No, I had. But it was always on an individual basis, like the one at
her house in Delhi in her house where she was very nice to me, very
open. We sat for hours together with her brother's kids, they playing
with her and I with them and talking to her. I must admit that she has
throughout been very respectful to me. The reports that she misbehaves
with her party workers are not true.

Is Mayawati worried about the Rahul Gandhi factor in UP?
Yes, she seems to be very worried. The thing is the Dalits came to the
BSP with lots of aspirations. They support the party blindly thinking
it will pull them out of their thousands of years of misery. But now
she is giving tickets to many people from other classes, and most of
them are rich. They finance election campaigns and pay the party
bosses, and so they are extremely arrogant. They have no respect for
the common man or the rank and file. And they want returns for their
investments. They don't give a damn about Dalits. They take them for
granted thinking they will get Dalit votes anyway. Since other parties
do not think they will, where is the point in spending money on them?
This is causing resentment to build up not only among the Dalits, but
also educated people. I find people very unhappy with BSP MLAs. But
Mayawati is afraid of taking action against any legislator because she
fears that if she does they will all unite to unseat her. This is why
she sidelined SC Mishra. There was a rumour that he was hobnobbing
with the Congress to become the CM. Legislators are minting money,
using the bureaucrats. The ground situation in UP is terrible.
Mayawati has reason to be worried, because if the situation is not
controlled then, the BSP too could go the SP way. She may have won in
the by-elections by using State power and money, but in the next
elections even the Dalits may begin to move away from her.

Like her administration prevented Rahul from visiting the university…
See my take is that if people have to fight the Gandhis they need to
do it politically. We must organise rallies and go and work among the
Dalits, because every one is ignoring them. By stopping Rahul like
this she is only strengthening the Congress.

Did you tell her this?
I did, but I had to wait for nearly six months to be able to do it. I
had wanted her to support the Ganga Nath Mishra Commission report.
Under the Kashinath Memorial Awaas Yojana houses are being built for
the Dalits, but the Muslims, most of whom are homeless, are not
included. I had pressed for a 15-20 percent housing quota for Muslims.
I said do not reserve anything but tell the bureaucracy that you want
these many Muslim names otherwise if the list is to be cleared. This
is what Bahuguna had done in his time, but she just comes back to the
single point, "Tumhare Mussalmano ne vote kyun nahin diya." Every time
you meet her she says, "Tumhare Mussalman gaddar hain." So when I
realised that I could do nothing for the Muslims, the Dalits, Indian
politics or go speak to the media I quit. Some would say that you are
speaking now because you are bitter about the experiment.
But that is natural because when I spoke out I was expelled. Now that
I have been expelled, I can speak freely.

You spoke to the media, but did you speak to her?
Many times. I told Nasimuddin Siddqui, SC Mishra, Kushwaha and others
that this was not the right way. I told her on telephone a couple of
times that we must have a plan to bring together the minorities.
Earlier, when I had joined the party, I gave her notes about how we
should go about it and she promised that she would implement it. But
she did not. Later she said that since Muslims had not voted for her,
what was the point? I told her that Dalits also started voting for you
only gradually. It is a fact, though, that Muslims are not attracted
to the BSP. They have moved away from the SP but they are not coming
to the BSP, and the Congress is trying to cash in on that.

But why aren't they coming to the BSP?
Because they feel that the BSP has no place for Muslim leaders. They
need somebody to tell their problems to and she is not ready to do
anything about their development, growth and backwardness.

Where from do BSP legislators and MPs get so much money?
I don't know if they have the capacity to pay or to win. What I do
know is that they in some particular area they will give tickets to a
particular caste, because in the neighbouring one another caste has
benefited. This is called caste engineering and not social
engineering. The media uses the wrong word. Each time you meet
Mayawati you have to pay in lakh. It's a total money game. You can't
survive in the BSP unless you make illicit money, and then don't give
it up.

How did you survive for 17 months?
I survived because I stayed away. If you tell them that you are
bringing something on her birthday you will get faster appointments.

You have always been in parties where individuals have mattered more,
like Amar Singh who dominates the SP.
When I joined the SP, Amar Singh was not that dominating. There were
discussions. There were a lot of socialist leaders then. What I am
saying is that with this anti-defection law, leaders think they can
get away with anything, because defection requires two-thirds
majority. Where MLAs do not have any influence they have to move like
sheep. That is why people like Mulayam Singh, Lalu Prasad and
Jayalalithaa are where they are these days. People saw how they became
so powerful. Karunanidhi was not so powerful 6-7 years back. Today his
family is. The media should study this phenomenon. I am talking about
this and facing the music. I was a journalist and continue to be one
and so I ask these questions, look at things differently. That is what
I am doing.

What is Amar Singh's hold on Mulayam?
That nobody has been able to figure out. Even if a senior leader makes
an innocuous remark about Amar Singh, he is made to apologise
publicly. If somebody says "aap bahot accha kaam karte hain par thoda
sa bollywood se door rahiy,'' it will be enough for that man to be
humiliated. Mulayam Singhji has total faith in Amar Singh.

What is the reason for this?
He controls the finances and these poor people who come from regional
caste-based parties don't know how to manage their finances. They were
not getting money from the big industries. If you have people like
Prem Gupta or Amar Singh and they have a role to play, then… They were
there in politics earlier too, but they were not party leaders then.
Today money is so important in elections that no leader can survive
without pots and pots of it. People who can manipulate and manage
money are welcome in any party and become powerful day by day.

Just two days, before the nuke deal you switched allegiance to the BSP
and told me that Muslims do not vote on issues related to foreign
That is true. For me the nuclear deal was very important, but for
ordinary Muslims it may not be because they don't vote on such issues.
Muslims voted for the SP and the Congress. They didn't vote for
parties opposing the deal like the CPM. Look anywhere around you,
Indians don't vote on foreign policy issues; but that does not mean
that I should not have my views on it. I felt the nuke deal was not in
the country's interest. Everybody, including Mulayam Singh, agreed but
suddenly there was a switch. It was a deflection of the party from its
own ideology. Now they agree with what I said. They say that it was a
mistake to support the Manmohan Singh government and the Congress on
the deal.

Why did Amar Singh take that decision?
That's what I wanted to know. They told me this is politics, you won't
understand. I don't know how the nuke deal can be politics because it
involves the country's future, its environment's future, its
generations' future. Energy security is extremely important for India,
but there should be no investment in nuclear energy. We will need it
after 30 years. Right now it is solar, hydro and wind energy that we
require. I got so involved with the issue that I went to the US to
study the whole energy security question. How was the West planning
its energy requirements? Suddenly I was told that I was wrong.

Why did you lose Bijnor?
There were two reasons. First, I did not have money. People before me
had lots of money and the media was for sale. The media played a big
role in defeating me because I did not have the money to pay them. So
you get negative reports, get blackmailed openly by the media barons.
They told me that for not publishing damaging news about me "aapko 25
percent ka discount ho jayega". The person who was contesting before
was part of the mining mafia – Avtar Singh Bhadana – who was spending
crore of rupees. He came from the SP, then switched over to the NCP.
Secondly, the BSP coordinator worked overtime to defeat me. He told
every MLA, "Agar yeh jeet gaya to tum sabko agla ticket nahin milega."
I got the DM changed to an honest one. I saw that many of the trucks
were impounded. They were making money from the traffic movements
between UP and Uttaranchal. I got that stopped. Here I was fighting to
stop corruption, but then I saw that my own party people were totally
corrupted. I was defeated by 20,000 seats. I got more votes than most
of these people. Five MLAs who were working there had done nothing,
and I had to face the music for them. There was no electricity or
development. People are angry. UP is in a real bad shape
So these MLAs were able to work against you despite knowing that
Mayawati wanted you to win?
Mayawati called them, but they did not bother. She told me that she
would take action against them. But after the elections she said,
"Abhi kuch nahin kar sakte, ye bhaag jayenge." These MLAs only want
their family members in the party, no one form outside it.

What is Shahid Siddiqui's political future now?
The future is very bright. Political activists who can speak their
mind should come together and form a group, rising above party
divisions and working for better governance and delivery. I feel
democracy has failed somewhere. It is not just about collections.
Corruption is eating into the core of our democracy. You can't fight
it unless you can rise above party divisions. There is autocracy in
the parties, which needs to be fought. We have a semi-feudal
democracy, and I have believed this to be true for years. I would like
thinking people, not just those who are in politics but also those who
say that corrupt people have spoilt politics, to come forward.

What about the SP?
I am not going anywhere right now. I am going to enjoy my freedom. If
the SP democratises and changes itself, then I will welcome that. I
feel regional parties are most important because India is a federal
society and it has to be decentralised. There are so many interests
that they can't all be handled by a single party, so we need regional
parties. And these need to interact with each other. Because of the
anti-deflection law you can't say anything in Parliament too. Earlier
you used to have 200 days of Parliament sessions; now there are hardly
80-90 days. Nobody cares. Where is the point in wasting the nation's
time in discussing things in Parliament if you can't convince or be
convinced? I believe that neither does Parliament nor our parties
offer a platform. What kind of democracy is this? So I believe if I
join a party again my voice will be stifled.


From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 51, Dated December 26, 2009


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