There has already been much written about the manner in which UP Chief Minister and BSP supremo Mayawati accepted a huge garland allegedly made of thousand rupee notes.Congress general secretary Digvijai Singh has even calculated how much money was in the garland. According to him, the garland was 10 feet long and in each ring, it had 45 currency notes of Rs 1000 denomination. That makes it Rs 45,000 in every ring. Based on this initial premise, he put the figure to be at Rs 22.50 Crores. Like many others I have been left wondering how did the astute Congress leader get so much time in getting to the final amount. Presuming he asked somebody else to do this for him, how did that somebody get this kind of time and money to reach some initial calculation based on one centimeter or one inch as the case may have been? Our politicians have plenty of time to dig skeletons when it involves others.
Coming back to Mayawati’s grand show in Lucknow to mark the 25th anniversary of her party, the media while covering it by and large forgot to talk to the people who had come there from every nook and corner of the country. Instead they got down to calculating that Rs 200 Crores had been spent on the rally and if the same amount was used productively, it could have led to so many kilometers of roads being built or so many hospitals being built.
I do not endorse any kind of vulgar display of wealth but I feel that the media is always unkind to Mayawati. Maybe it has something to do with the upper caste prejudice but the UP CM gets targeted repeatedly because she does things so openly. Her style of politics is transparent to the extent that if she accepts money or if she wears expensive diamonds or clothes, it is all in the public domain. She is unlike so many of our politicians who maybe making more money than her but do so in a hush hush manner. Whatever she accepts for her party by way of donations is done in public view. There is no element of hypocrisy involved.
The same kind of calculations are never made whenever some other political party organizes a show. The BJP had a big session in Indore recently where many crores were spent and I am sure that the Madhya Pradesh government must have also lent a helping hand. But no one talked about hospitals that could have been built by that money or the roads. Similarly, some years ago, the Congress had a grand show in Hyderabad. We in the media do practise double standards at times.
When one looks at Mayawati’s brand of politics, one has to understand that her supporters beam with pride every time she lands in a helicopter or if she puts on diamonds or expensive clothes etc. For them it is empowerment of some sort since at one time, in certain parts, Dalits could not even buy gold jewellery. One has to look at things from her supporter’s perspective and there is no doubt in my mind that the angle of looking at the issues changes. We are of course a poor country but when so much wealth is on display in our TV shows, newspapers (page three) or movies, picking on Mayawati singularly is not fair. I am no supporter of the kind of extravagance, which is often displayed at parties or in functions, but I do firmly believe that opinion makers must not use different yardsticks for different people.
Politically, the rally, which was held, was a show of strength. There is an element of political instability in the air and leaders like Mayawati are always in a state of preparedness to face the polls. Unlike many others, Mayawati begins her preparations two to three years in advance and often also decides on her candidates. Those who attended her rally in Lucknow must have already started propagating for her in their respective areas.
The rally was a challenge to her opponents to hold a bigger rally than hers in Lucknow. It was also a tribute to her mentor and BSP founder Kanshi Ram whose birth anniversary was also celebrated on March 15.
Mayawati is a very political person and wants to consolidate her position in her home state before others step in. She knows that the passage of the women’s reservations bill has made Mulayam Singh Yadav active once again and the Congress may also want to cash in on the issue shortly. She has therefore made a head start.
I also want to make it clear that I am not defending any kind of extravagance. But at the same time I want everyone to be judged by the same yardstick. I have tried to look at the rally with a perspective, which I think would be shared by Dalits and others who back the UP CM.