Behind Mayawati's clean-up act, Anna effect and poll concerns
Virender Kumar Posted online: Thu Oct 13 2011, 00:03 hrs
Lucknow : UP Chief Minister Mayawati is in a hurry. In less than two
months, she has removed three ministers who faced corruption charges.
She has also suspended several MLAs, either for anti-party activities
or for their reported involvement in crime. With Assembly elections
due early next year, Mayawati obviously feels she needs to brush up
Last week, Mayawati removed her Higher Education Minister Rangnath
Mishra after Lokayukta N K Mehrotra found that, after becoming
minister, he had acquired assets disproportionate to his known sources
of income. The same day, she also dismissed Labour Minister Badshah
Singh without waiting for a report from the Lokayukta, who has since
held the minister guilty of land grab. Earlier, on August 17, she had
asked Minister of State for Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development
Awadh Pal Singh to resign after the Lokayukta found that he had
misused his powers to give undue benefits to his son and relatives.
What she has done is unprecedented. Chief ministers in UP had never
given much importance to the Lokayukta; in fact, he has no power to
investigate charges against the chief minister. Before her new-found
zeal, even Mayawati hadn't appeared to care much about an indictment
by the Lokayukta. Several officials and politicians against whom he
had made serious charges had gone on in their positions.
Among them were Basic Education Minister Dharam Singh Saini and BSP MP
Kaiser Jahan, who is also president of the Leharpur Nagarpalika and,
in that capacity, had faced charges of misusing public money. The
Chief Minister did not consider it necessary either to ask her
Minorities Welfare and Haj Minister, Anees Ahmed, to pay pack Rs 69
lakh that he had given to family-owned educational institutions from
his MLAs' local area development fund.
There was one exception, however. In December last year, Mayawati
removed Rajesh Tripathi, Minister of Religious Endowments, after the
Lokayukta held that he headed an organisation that had grabbed
government land, and that he was also running a cremation ground where
a payment was charged for performing last rites. But that removal had
more to do with the BSP's internal politics in Gorakhpur district. The
indictment of Tripathi did not stop Mayawati from renominating him as
the party candidate from Chillupar.
Mayawati's transformation can be attributed to Anna Hazare. Thanks to
his campaign, corruption has become a live issue. His target may be
the Congress, but in UP the Congress has been out of power for more
than two decades and it is Mayawati who is under the scanner here.
Mayawati knows this, as do the opposition parties. The Congress, the
BJP, and the Samajwadi Party have been targeting her government for
corruption. For several months, she has been under attack for a
massive scandal in rural healthcare under the NRHM, which was marked
by the murder of two officials in quick succession, and which broke
when her trusted aide Babu Singh Kushwaha was Minister for Family
Welfare. All parties are also questioning the way she has spent
thousands of crores on building memorials and erecting her statues,
and about land deals in Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway
Industrial Development Authority.
And if the opposition parties are playing to the anti-corruption
sentiment, so is Mayawati, who is out to project herself as an
uncompromising crusader who does not spare even her own.
Crime & punishment
In the story behind the suspension of the MLAs with a criminal past,
there is no Anna Hazare factor. Over the last four-and-a-half years,
Mayawati has sent quite a few BSP MLAs and ministers to jail. Yet at
the same time, she has also appeared indulgent towards some partymen
who broke the law. She has even ordered withdrawal of cases of murder,
rioting, rape, cheating, and assault of public servants against known
history-sheeters. Even now, her party has MLAs and MLCs who are facing
criminal charges in courts. Two of her MLAs have non-bailable warrants
against them, one in a rape case and the other in a murder case, and
her police have reported to courts that they can't find them.
After corruption, this threatens to become the second big issue
against Mayawati in the elections. In 2007, she had won on the promise
of restoring law and order, putting criminals in jail and creating "a
bhaymukt samaj" to follow "Mulayam Singh Yadav's jungle raj".
But if Mulayam had people facing criminal charges in his party, so had
Mayawati in hers. After winning the election, she made some of them
ministers and chairmen of boards and corporations. Having acquired
political power, they apparently came into their elements — they have
frequently been accused of grabbing land, indulging in murder,
extortion, and framing rivals in false cases.
Mayawati knows that many of her MLAs are unpopular. Many others,
having realised that they cannot win under the BSP banner, are
exploring other options. Mayawati is weeding them out, hoping to
contain the damage after she had given power and legitimacy to the
same people in the first place. In the coming days, she could sack
more ministers and suspend more MLAs.
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