Wednesday, March 7, 2012

[ZESTCaste] How Mayawati blew it (Opinion)

How Mayawati blew it
Virender Kumar Posted online: Thu Mar 08 2012, 03:51 hrs
Why she junked the rainbow, fled to her core vote

Why has the BSP lost despite the world-class F1 race tack, the Yamuna
Expressway, the plus-seven per cent growth, and those impressive
stone-and-granite symbols of Dalit pride which have changed the face
of Lucknow and Noida? Ask anyone who travelled in UP in recent weeks.
In the general sense of disaffection with the government, three points
stand out.

One, complaints of pervasive corruption, so much so that the poor had
to pay for getting their pension, Indira Awas or NREGA wages. Two,
that hers was a "bureaucratic, insensitive" government, with no
redress of grievances, not even when MLAs tried to intercede. Three,
that it was a government which cared only for the Dalits.

Interestingly, unlike others, the Dalits generally remained
enthusiastic supporters of Mayawati, crediting her for giving them a
sense of security and dignity. Post-results, it seems, Mayawati has
again become a leader of Dalits, exactly where she stood before 2007
when, for the first time, non-Dalits voted for the BSP in large
numbers, helping it get an absolute majority.

Her promise of restoring the rule of law had then caught the
imagination of a people fed up with Mulayam Singh Yadav's jungle raj.
She changed her language: from a champion of Bahujan, she turned into
a votary of Sarvajan. Her party shed its old, anti-upper caste
rhetoric. Did she rise to the demands of an inclusive, sarvajan
mandate? For an answer, let us trace, briefly, the journey of her last
five years.

After taking over as chief minister in May 2007, she announced two
bold initiatives: the over 1,000-km-long Ganga Expressway project and
a scheme to open the agriculture sector to private investment. The
first, running from Basti in the east to Noida in the west, could have
opened up vast tracts in UP's most backward hinterland to
urbanisation, and growth that comes with it. But it was stalled by
land acquisition and environmental roadblocks. The second, which had
the potential of sowing the seeds of a green revolution, was abandoned
because, as Mayawati said, intelligence reports suggested that farmers
did not like the idea.

She took a third initiative: she started work on those grand
memorials, a total of five in Lucknow, including two expansive ones
dedicated to Kanshi Ram and B.R. Ambekdar, and a third, equally huge,
in Noida, each costing several thousand crores. Everywhere, she
installed her own statues along with those of Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram,
Jyotiba Phule, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj and other Dalit icons — as
many as 12 in Lucknow alone. In a state which has for long ranked
among the lowest in socio-economic indicators, how could this promote
Sarvajan Hitay? This was Mayawati's first self-inflicted blow to her
sarvajan platform.

Her party leaders, in the meantime, went berserk. Within six months, a
minister was allegedly involved in the murder of a girl in Faizabad;
after another six months, an MLA was arrested for rape in Agra.
Another six months and a third MLA, along with the district BSP
president, and helped by the police, forced his way into the house of
an engineer in Auraiya and allegedly tortured him to death just
because he refused to pay for Mayawati's birthday celebrations. Many
more such incidents followed.

Mayawati couldn't stop any of this.

So, when the Lok Sabha elections were held in 2009, the BSP found
itself beaten to the third place by the SP and the Congress. Worse, it
could win only two of the 17 reserved seats. This was stage one of
Mayawati's undoing.

Assembly elections were almost three years away. If she wanted,
Mayawati could still make amends and push administrative and policy
initiatives to regain public trust. But rattled by the defeat, she
took a big leap back: she junked her inclusivist mandate and sought
the safety of her traditional Dalit supporters.

She announced that party general secretary Satish Mishra, who many had
begun to see as her No 2, would stay away from politics and, instead,
concentrate on the party's legal work. The State Advisory Committee
under Mishra, which had been constituted on the pattern of Sonia
Gandhi's National Advisory Committee, was rendered defunct. Mishra was
no mass leader and his belittling did not alienate any section. But
Mayawati's action sent out a message to the Dalits that she is the
only leader of the BSP, that no one else mattered. Non-Dalits were
also listening.

What damaged Mayawati and the BSP hard was the systematic emasculation
of her MLAs. All of them were answerable to the party's local
coordinators, who are regarded as Mayawati's eyes and ears. Most of
them are Dalits. Without the coordinator's approval, an MLA could not
even hold a meeting or make a statement to the media. If there was a
local grievance, the coordinator would decide how it would be taken up
and with whom. They kept everyone on a tight leash. This destroyed the
MLAs politically, particularly the non-Dalits.

Mayawati kept underlining that the Dalit agenda remained her top
priority, nothing else. She gave a new thrust to the Ambedkar village
project, under which basic facilities are provided on priority in
villages that have substantial Dalit population. She introduced
reservation for Dalits in contracts. She ordered that the government
pay membership fee of Dalits so that they became members of primary
cooperative societies and, therefore, eligible for loans. The DGP was
told to personally visit homes where a Dalit was the victim of a
crime. She ordered a special campaign to give land to the landless
Dalits. All this was as it should be. But in all other matters, the
administration kept functioning in its usual uncaring, inefficient
ways. For example, the police would promptly attend to complaints of
Dalits, not others. And if the complaint was against a BSP man, it
would not even lodge an FIR until it got a green signal from above. It
was this reverse discrimination that blew apart her Sarvajan Hitay

Meanwhile, crime and corruption flourished; her trusted men Babu Singh
Kushwaha and Naseemuddin Siddiqui were caught for alleged corruption.
Two CMOs were shot dead in Lucknow, a deputy CMO was found dead in
Lucknow jail under suspicious circumstances. As Mayawati increasingly
came under attack, she fled to the safety of her core vote. Read her
speeches over the last few years and the refrain is that everyone is
gripped by "Dalit-virodhi mansikta", trying to bring down a "Dalit ki
beti". Even Julian Assange was "Dalit virodhi".

The undoing of Mayawati's sarvajan platform was complete. Since in a
state like UP, no one can win an election by courting one or two
communities, the BSP's defeat was a foregone conclusion.

Any lessons from this for the Samajwadi Party? One, the SP should
recognise that it has got a mandate for governance from a people fed
up with Mayawati's misrule. Two, it has to respect the fact that
behind its victory is the support and goodwill of people across
Hindu-Muslim, forward-backward and rural-urban divides. Nothing else
can explain its win in Lucknow. It should remember that as long as it
was a party of Yadavs and Muslims, its best score was 143 in 2002.
Three, the SP should be on guard against those who can tar the new
government. Unlike Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has avoided using the
stick even when necessary, Akhilesh Yadav has shown he is made of
sterner stuff. The space and support the father gives the son could
hold the key to the SP's success.


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