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How Mayawati's trusted coterie misled her

By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
Last updated on: May 20, 2009 15:10 IST
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Bahujan Samaj Party chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati was clearly misled by some members of her coterie, which has managed in the last two years to insulate her from the ground realities outside her ivory tower.

The Dalit leader, who took the BSP to new heights, was (mis)guided by sycophants, who have been serving their vested interests ever since she swept the state assembly elections in 2007.

Evidently, Mayawati was so enamoured by the much-hyped 'social engineering' formula, that she was convinced that caste and religious issues would ensure her party's victory in Uttar Pradesh.

"All the Dalits of the country are behind Mayawati, who is their undisputed leader. I have successfully mobilised Brahmins across India to support the BSP," used to be the proud refrain of Mayawati's closest confidant Satish Chandra Misra, the party's Brahmin mascot.

Misra, who was responsible for stretching the concept of 'social engineering' far beyond its real proportions, also fuelled Mayawati's prime ministerial ambitions.

The euphoria of the 2007 assembly victory had convinced Mayawati that she would win at least 45 Lok Sabha seats in UP.

She took it for granted that the 22 per cent Dailt population in the state as well as the 10 per cent Brahmins would blindly vote for her, and it would be a smooth ride to Delhi's Race Course Road for her.

In fact, acting on the advice of her coterie, she began to make overtures to upper caste Hindu communities and Muslims, hoping to mould the BSP into an alternative to the Congress, which had thrived on the support of the Dalit-Muslim-upper caste Hindu combine.

While focusing all her energies on wooing upper caste Hindus and Muslims, she ignored the expectations of her core support group, the Dalits who had propelled her to power.

Nobody in her inner coterie was ready to believe that factors beyond caste and community would matter; that her electorate might demand to know what she has done for them.

Members of her coterie were also not ready to step out into the field and gauge the disillusionment of the Dalits with the Mayawati regime.

"What good is Mayawati for us when we continue to be exploited by the police and revenue officials? How is the government led by her any different from Mulayam's as far as we are concerned," were the common complaints by the Dalits residing in Ambedkar village, in the vicinity of Lucknow.

Hapless Dalits continued to be implicated in criminal cases, thanks to the unabated corruption that had spread its tentacles right up to the higher echelons of the police force.

Since the chief minister chose to remain inaccessible to all and sundry, the poor victims had no choice but to suffer at the hands of the corrupt policemen. "We used to think that once Mayawati came to power, the harassment of Dalits at the hands of the police would come to an end, but we were mistaken," remarked Awadhesh Kumar, 32, a farm labourer in Mohanlalganj.

Mayawati's paranoia about her own security, hyped by the top cops close to her, led her to completely alienate herself from the masses. The traditional daily 'janata durbar' held at the chief minister's official residence came to an end due to this 'security threat', while she remained oblivious to the plight of those who had voted her to power.

Mayawati continued to depend only on heavily filtered information, either through her coterie or through the handful of ministers who had access to her. And she believed the word of her advisors, without caring to cross-check the ground realities.

Realisation has finally dawned on her advisers a little too late -- only after the BSP lost 15 of the 17 reserved Lok Sabha seats in the recent polls, barely two years after sweeping 62 of the 89 reserved state assembly seats in the 2007 elections.

Interestingly, only four of the 19 Brahmins recommended and fielded by Misra managed to make it to the Lok Sabha, dealing a deadly blow to Mayawati's magical 'social engineering' formula.

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow