The MAYA of Statues
Mayawati's magic is fading. Her politics is in decline. Even Dalits are ditching her
PRADEEP KAPOOR LUCKNOW
ELECTION 2009 GAVE a rude shock to BSP supremo, Mayawati. After a sterling performance in the UP assembly polls in 2007, she was dreaming of bagging the country's top job. Or, at least, pull the strings as a kingmaker.
But May 16 relegated her to the margins. Her party came up third in UP with 20 seats, trailing even behind the Congress (21 seats), which was taken for dead in the state.
Is the Maya magic on the wane?
Some facts first. BSP increased its tally in UP from 19 in the 2004 Lok Sabha (LS) polls and added one more from Madhya Pradesh to take its total tally to 21 in the country. In terms of vote share, BSP polled three per cent more votes than what it did in 2004. There was a decline of three per cent from the 2007 UP assembly polls. BSP had won 206 seats in the assembly with 30 per cent vote share, creating a record as the first party to get a majority on its own since 1991.
Buoyed by previous performance, she put up as many as 500 candidates in the parliamentary polls and zipped all across to campaign. She was expecting to win 45-50 seats. She branded herself as "Dalit ki beti as prime minister".
In the 17 reserved constituencies in UP, BSP won only two seats, a loss of three seats from 2004 LS polls. Even Dalit voters are moving away from the Dalit party. The verdict shows Mayawati is losing grip in over 106 assembly segments. It retains its hold on only 100 assembly constituencies - enough to send the alarm bells ringing.
Mayawati had to eat humble pie. Eyebrows were raised when she offered unconditional outside support to the UPA government. According to observers, Mayawati did this for selfish reasons. The support is seen as a quid pro quo so that the Congress is lenient with her on the disproportionate assets case and Rs 175 crore Taj Heritage Corridor case pending against her with the CBI and the Supreme Court. Last June, UP governor, TV Rajeshwar, refused to grant CBI sanction to prosecute Mayawati. Two PILs are pending in the courts.
She had gone all out to woo Muslims by fielding several Muslim candidates. She invoked NSA against Varun Gandhi for his hate speech in Pilibhit and opposed the nuclear deal with the US. But, unlike in 2007, she could not mobilise Muslim support.
Most of BSP's Muslim candidates lost. The SP's Muslim vote bank was eroded, too, after Mulayam Singh joined hands with Kalyan Singh, who carries the taint of the Babri Masjid demolition. So, the Muslim community seems to have preferred the Congress. Another reason was to vote for a stable government at the Centre.
BSP's social engineering suffered a setback as Brahmins, too, backed out. Mayawati had given maximum number of tickets (20) to Brahmins. But only four won. The Brahmin-Dalit formula, successful in 2007, didn't work this time. The Brahmins shifted loyalty to Congress and a section remained with BJP. Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits comprised Congress' traditional vote bank since Independence. During the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, Brahmins shifted to BJP.
These days, in her autocratic style, Mayawati is 'purging' the party. She has abolished the posts of party coordinators. There were allegations of corruption against coordinators. More than 100 BSP cadre, who were appointed chairmen and members of various public sector undertakings and enjoyed the status of ministers, faced the axe. Reason: they failed to ensure victory of party candidates in their areas.
MAYAWATI'S IS A real-life rags-to-riches story. She was born in a clerk's family in his humble quarters at Delhi. She worked as a teacher in the poor Inderpuri Jhuggi Jhonpri (JJ) Colony in Delhi even as she prepared for the civil services examination. Way back in 1993, Mayawati told this correspondent, how BSP founder, Kanshiram, spotted her during a debate in 1977. Kanshiram was so impressed with her 'oratorial skills' that he asked her father, Prabhu Das, to give her to the 'movement'. Mayawati's father was reluctant. He wanted her to become an IAS officer. Kanshiram promised to give her so big a stature that IAS officers would be at her beck and call.
His promise has translated into reality. Mayawati now throws around IAS and IPS officers at will. After the recent results, she ordered the transfer of police chiefs of 19 districts. The reason seems to be their failure to ensure victories for BSP candidates. Only one district where the SSP was shunted out in spite of BSP having won the seat is Gautam Budh Nagar. In all, 34 police officers have been handed transfer orders.
Similarly, 13 IAS officers were shifted including district magistrates of Unnao, Badaun, Sultanpur and Mainpuri where BSP candidates were defeated. Mayawati stayed away from the UPA government's swearing-in ceremony on May 22. Instead, she held a meeting in Lucknow and reprimanded ministers and bureaucrats.
From the squalor of dingy lanes in Delhi, Mayawati now has amassed huge wealth. While investigating the Taj Corridor scam, the CBI claimed to have stumbled upon more than 70 properties belonging to Mayawati and her kin. Over time, she has drifted away from the movement led by Kanshiram. Now, she is patronising criminals and building her own statues worth crores: this vulgarity has antagonised people across the spectrum.
She is on a building spree erecting her own statues and memorials of Dalit icons. She put up her statue at Gomtinagar crossing in Lucknow. Earlier, her 12-feet long bronze statue was erected but she found that it was three-feet shorter than other statues. So, she got another 15-feet statue erected. More than Rs 1,000 crore have been spent on the construction of these memorials.
In this Lok Sabha election, Mayawati gave tickets to many mafia dons: Mukhtar Ansari from Varanasi (she called him a 'maseeha'), his brother, Afzal Ansari from Ghazipur, DP Yadav from Badaun, Arun Shukla alias Anna from Unnao, and Dhananjay Singh from Jaunpur. Voters rejected all of them, but Dhananjay Singh managed to win. In 2007, she had swept to power on the plank of fighting against criminals as people were fed up with the goonda raj patronised by the SP regime.
Large scale corruption is another reason for BSP's drubbing. The murder of PWD engineer, MK Gupta, by BSP MLA, Shekhar Tewari, exposed the criminal-police-politician nexus in UP. Gupta was killed when he refused to give donations for Mayawati's birthday celebrations.
No big investment has been made in UP in the last two years. The only major investment is by the JP group of industries - Rs 40,000 crore worth Ganga Expressway. The project is facing stiff opposition from farmers over land acquisition. Earlier, Reliance retail stores in UP were closed within a day as the government withdrew the permission in the name of law and order problems.
A big problem with Mayawati is her inaccessibility; even her ministers, MPs, legislators and bureaucrats find it tough. Her second-in-command, SC Mishra, remains elusive. No wonder, resentment is building up within the BSP. According to Dalit activist and former inspector-general of police, SR Darapuri, the poll results prove that the decline of Mayawati's brand of politics has begun. Dalits, Muslims, Brahmins: they are gradually leaving the BSP. Mayawati's Sarvajan Samaj preamble is losing its sheen.