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Mayawati India's anti-Obama, says Newsweek

Source: PTI
April 22, 2009 01:06 IST
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Describing Mayawati as "India's anti-Obama" in its cover story, a leading US magazine has said unlike the youthful black-American President who transcends race, the BSP chief who has "built her power on demagogic class warfare" may be a "highly divisive national leader".

Noting that her supporters are trying to position her as India's answer to Obama, the Newsweek said "there are indeed parallels between Mayawati and Obama."

"Like America's president, Mayawati is young - just 53 in a country where most political leaders are in their 70s. She is also an outsider who comes from a long-oppressed segment of society: the Dalits," it said in a five-page feature.

But, the magazine felt, Mayawati is "both a bigger underdog" and a "potentially bigger threat" to the established order than Obama was.

"Unlike Obama, who promised a new politics that would transcend not only race but traditional ideology and corrupt Washington ways, Mayawati has built her power on demagogic class warfare. As her national ambitions have grown, she recently began reaching out to upper-caste voters," it said.

The BSP supremo has accumulated a "suspiciously ostentatious fortune" and is "dogged by corruption charges," the Newsweek said. "She is admired by many Dalits, but often more for her power and jewels than for her limited accomplishments on their behalf."

Mayawati's victory, if it comes, may be seen as a great leap forward for India's oppressed but, "ironically, will end up bolstering the caste system that has kept them in chains," according to the magazine.

"Mayawati would likely be a highly divisive national leader- an anti-Obama - and not only domestically.

"With his Kenyan father, Indonesian stepfather and international outlook, Obama appeals across national borders and has already begun to steer the US away from George W Bush's unilateralism. Mayawati, by contrast, is parochial in the extreme. She almost never speaks about foreign policy, and when she does, her pronouncements are so vague as to be practically meaningless," it said.

The magazine noted her "worrisome" stances, including decrying US efforts to secure Indian support for sanctions on what she's called "our old friend Iran" and her promise that a BSP government would renegotiate the Indo-US nuclear deal.

"On trade, she's sounded sharply protectionist notes... she would beat the leasta wild card at the international summits attempting to repair global capitalism."

It dwelt on detail on her "impressive" rise, including how she became "the Lenin to (Kanshi) Ram's Marx" but said "there is little evidence that Mayawati's policies actually did much for her devoted supporters. Dalits in UP today remain worse off than those in many other states."

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