Mayawati and the law

Published : Oct 10, 2003 00:00 IST

The problems Mayawati faces now are attributed by her supporters to her being a Dalit. The reality is that she has failed her community.

THE wheel has come full circle. Mayawati, who was until a few weeks ago Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, has not only had to relinquish that office, but has - on her own volition, be it noted - resigned from the Legislative Assembly and is now to be prosecuted for various criminal acts she is alleged to have committed. She, who began her political career as a fire-breathing leader of the oppressed Dalits, and eventually became Chief Minister of the State for a second time, has ended where she began. In fact, she is much worse off now than she was when she started her public career. She had no cases against her then, she was not smeared with the sleaze of murky deals like the Taj Corridor project; nor did she have to face accusations of having made crores of rupees personally, buying and selling land and houses in parts of the State and even in Delhi.

But what is truly astonishing is that when she became Chief Minister she seemed to forget that she was not by any means chosen by the people; her party did not have the largest number of representatives elected to the Legislative Assembly; she was a Chief Minister because of political manoeuvrings by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), among others, to keep Mulayam Singh Yadav from becoming Chief Minister. In fact, she began behaving as if she, and she alone, had been chosen to lead Uttar Pradesh in the manner in which Jayalalithaa has been chosen by the people of Tamil Nadu to be their Chief Minister.

She had a huge birthday party - a spectacular affair, by all accounts, on which enormous sums of money were spent, which came from the kickbacks she got allegedly from the Taj Corridor business. (The media have reported that her closest and senior most officers, her Principal Secretary and the Chief Secretary of the State, have told this to the Central Bureau of Investigation.) But that was a trifle; her behaviour was much more that of a monarch, imperiously moving officers around, oblivious to the havoc it caused in the administration, arbitrarily deciding what was to be done first - installation of statues was given very high priority, for instance - and so on. And any critical comment on her action was instantly pointed to as an instance of discrimination against Dalits.

Uttar Pradesh is virtually bankrupt. All right, so are other States, but it did not seem that the near-bankruptcy of the State caused her to lose a night's sleep. Her progression through the period of her chief ministership was marked by lavish spending on whatever took her fancy. Which of course included the Taj Corridor, it would seem, going by media reports quoting CBI sources. And there is clearly substance in what they have said; the Supreme Court would not, otherwise, have directed that she be charge-sheeted along with the officers accused in the case.

What of education, what of drinking water, what of campaigns to remove caste prejudices of the kind some NGOs have taken on in Andhra Pradesh? Nothing, really. Only what the poor bureaucrats sitting fearfully in Lucknow or in the districts have been able to do with whatever funds they have had access to. And that could not be very much - the funds or the access to them. And they could not have time either; many were transferred so frequently that they would sit down to a meal in one post and rise from it in another. Nor would too many officers be interested, because they, too, belong to the new breed of which there are, it would seem, more specimens in U.P. than elsewhere - the ones that have been described as politically savvy and, as T.S.R. Subramaniam, former Cabinet Secretary said in a television interview not so long ago, nimble-footed. The officials have seen the writing on the wall, they know the chances of Mayawati coming back as Chief Minister are slim, and, in an effort to get into Mulayam Singh Yadav's good books, have promptly begun to sing like canaries of all that she did. These are the kind of officers the IAS can well do without, but, sadly, there are far too may like them in the service now, the kind who can run swiftly, nimbly and silently from one camp to the other.

There will, of course, be the usual defence from Mayawati. She is being maligned, this is just Vajpayee's way of getting back at her, this is the villainy of Mulayam Singh Yadav and so on. It will be interesting to see what she says when she is confronted with written evidence of her land and house deals, from where she says she got the money for all of it. And what she says about the statements said to have been made by officials who had worked under her, that she knew all along about the Taj Corridor scheme, was, in fact, the person who sanctioned it, and pushed that it be started with the frantic haste that came to light when the Supreme Court took cognisance of this contemptible and sordid attempt to make money by virtually renting out the environs of the Taj.

All this apart, there will be the other indignant reaction. All this is being done because Mayawati is a Dalit, it will be said. Had she been a Rajput or a Jat, she would never have been treated in this way. It is because the notion of a Dalit, and a woman at that, is being forceful, tough and uncompromising, because she does not hesitate to punish erring IAS officers, that she is now being hounded by the CBI. That will be the refrain from her apologists, and they will have facile examples ready. Yes, they will say that while she is being accused of all manner of crimes, Raja Bhaiyya, a man who is an accused person in a number of criminal cases, including murder, is being quietly released by Mulayam Singh Yadav because Raja Bhaiyya is his supporter. It bears out, her apologists will say, the real issue, which is that all this is being done only because Mayawati is a Dalit, and a woman.

On the face of it, the argument appears to have some validity. But only to those whose thinking is clouded with emotion and certain set notions about attitudes to Dalits among the other communities. The decision to release Raja Bhaiyya is not surprising. Mulayam Singh Yadav would not be what he is if he did not release him, criminal or not. But even if he released not only Raja Bhaiyya but a hundred people like him it does not in any way lessen the gravity of the charges against Mayawati. And it is not because she is a Dalit, far from it. It is because she was the Chief Minister, the first servant of the State, in whose care the State was entrusted, a trust which she abused. Her caste has no bearing on this at all.

No one has any illusions about Mulayam Singh Yadav. He, too, will do what others have done before him, including Mayawati, that is, assume the imperious manner of a monarch, which Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh find irresistible. It is likely that he may come to the same end as the others, too, but that may at the moment be more wishful thinking than realistic political analysis. He is shrewd, with a deep-seated cunning and a survival instinct. He too, like Mayawati, will move officers around with astonishing rapidity, but while he does that he will wait - wait for the nimble-footed among the bureaucrats to come crawling to him. He will then distribute postings as favours, as gifts in return for loyalty. You see how very cunning he is.

But whatever Mulayam is or is not, and whatever the fate of Uttar Pradesh, the true tragedy is in the fact that Mayawati failed her own community. Made giddy by power and the perquisites of office, and by the wealth she seems to have accumulated, she ceased to be a true leader of the Dalits, who would keep their interests always in the forefront. The community desperately needs an articulate leader who has its confidence trust and respect, and who can not only take centre stage but bring the problems faced by the community centre stage as well. Mayawati could have been such a leader, and chose not to be. And now she cannot even if she wanted to. That is what the real tragedy is.

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