A lot of people may hate Mayawati for various reasons. Yet there could be no denying that there were still ample reasons why one would love the 57-year old heiress of the political empire founded by her mentor Kanshi Ram, who gave that entity the name of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
She might be hated for her vitriolic against the upper caste, she might be despised because of her arrogance, her suspicious nature and her inaccessibility, she might be feared on account of her undemocratic, despotic, corrupt and extravagant ways. Yet there was something in her highly self-centered attitude that seemed to compel people to remember her with awe and adulation.
Perhaps it was her firmness of purpose, her grit and determination to get her will and whims executed –at all costs – that has left a deep imprint in the minds of not only those who witnessed her from close quarters, but also those who experienced her governance from a distance. However, it is felt that her “good” has come in focus largely in the context of “non-performance” by her successor Samajwadi Party government headed by Akhilesh Yadav.
“I cannot refute the questions raised on her integrity, but tell me which politician is not indulging in amassing wealth far disproportionate to his or her legitimate sources of income; look at the present government, which continues to indulge in corruption with impunity and also fails to deliver; now tell me which is better”, asked a top bureaucrat who had worked closely with the four-time UP Chief Minister.
A scheduled caste IAS officer, who enjoyed a key position during her last stint as CM felt, “Behenji was targeted both by her rival politicians and the media essentially because she happened to be a Dalit who had fought against the social odds to attain respectability; after all there are numerous top politicians in the country who have ransacked their states to mint billions, but the media chooses to shut its eyes to them. On the other hand, just because Behenji used the state exchequer to build and dedicate memorials to those social reformers who never got their due because they hailed from the underprivileged castes, she is being accused of misappropriation.”
While she had earned the reputation of being a tough taskmaster in her first stint as a novice Chief Minister, what gave her an edge over all her political rivals in matters of governance was the ‘no nonsense’ approach adopted by her on law and order issues in her successive tenures, more particularly her last stint when she got a full five-year term as the Chief Minister.
Undeniably, whatever good she was credited with, was also attributable to her choice of bureaucrats, who were handpicked by her, largely in consultation with her right-hand man Shashank Shekhar Singh, for whom she specially carved out the position of Cabinet Secretary. Despite not belonging to the elite IAS, Singh, a former army officer with a long experience in the state bureaucracy, helped Mayawati to select some undisputedly capable officers to run her show. How they could strike a balance between their forthright ways and the Chief Minister’s insatiable lust for filling her coffers merits a separate study.
As for herself, Mayawati clearly knew how to build her image as one who meant business – be it dealing with politicians or with bureaucrats. The real turning point came in 2007, when she ordered arrest of her own party MP for his indulgence in acts of violence and goondaism. No sooner than she saw news flashes of some poor people being beaten up and terrorised by her party’s Azamgarh Lok Sabha member Uma Kant Yadav, she summoned him to her residence the following day. And while the MP was waiting for an audience with her at her residence lounge, Mayawati called up the state police chief Vikram Singh to get the MP arrested.
It was an unprecedented move that made headlines across the country. But more than that, it sent the message loud and clear to all her partymen as well as other politicians that here was a Chief Minister who would brook no nonsense. It also served a warning to all lumpen element (of which there is no dearth in any political outfit) to behave or face Mayawati’s music.
It was this one act that also gave the cops a relatively free hand in dealing with those who otherwise get away by flaunting their political affiliations. And at the same time, it instilled a sense of security among common citizens.
The message was driven home deeper two years later, she ordered the arrest of BSP MLA Shekhar Tiwari , soon after it was discovered that he had beaten the local PWD executive engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta to death. It was another matter that Tiwari’s annoyance with Gupta was triggered on account of the MLA’s extortion bid, allegedly to collect funds for making his contribution towards Behenji’s “birthday gift”.
Shortly thereafter, she gave marching orders to her own minister Anand Sen, after his involvement was exposed in the kidnapping and murder of a girl in Faizabad. Sen was later arrested and sent to jail.
Next was the turn of her party’s Banda MLA Purshottam Narain Dwivedi, who was arrested for abducting and confining a young girl in his house where she was also gang-raped by him and his cohorts.
She also earned laurels for silencing the might of feudal lord turned politician Raghuraj Pratap Singh, widely known as Raja Bhaiya, whose name spelt terror and awe among his “subjects” until she hounded him to an extent that he chose to remain in oblivion for five long years. Singh has now bounced back as Minister for Prisons and Food and Civil supplies in the current Samajwadi Party regime.
Even as she was known to have dealt firmly with crime, her continued patronage to corrupt ministers and bureaucrats always raised a big question mark on her integrity. Sure enough, the recent expose about her younger brother Anand Kumar’s acquisitions to the tune of billions of rupees during her five year (2007-2012) rule speak volumes of how she was fixing her visibly ill-gotten wealth, which she finds convenient to describe as “gifts” from her supporters.
She might have managed to get off the CBI hook over the disproportionate assets case ,in which she initially got a favorable verdict, but with the apex court having issued fresh notices to her, trouble is bound to brew for her yet again.