A new, and even bigger, house for Mayawati
But, the locals are gathering in protest at this extravagant show of wealth in a poor state
Mayawati's house, which stands on a 39,369 sq mts plot in her village Badalpur in Gautam Budh Nagar district (UP)
Barely eighty kilometres from New Delhi along the Grand Trunk Road, a grand pink house is being built in semi-Mughal style in Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Budh Nagar, a district comprising Noida and Greater Noida.
It is a district that is often touted as a symbol of pride for Dalits.
The house is for Mayawati, currently serving her fourth term Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Mayawati is these days preparing for the next assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, due in 2012. While she does so, the house in her village Badalpur is telling the world a story. The story of what might happen when the masses become monarchs.
Mayawati, a poor Dalit, fought her way in Indian politics, using every insult thrown at her as an energy pill to build an astonishing support base. Hers is the only recent success story of a mass politician fighting the establishment, especially the Congress, with almost only the underprivileged by her side.
And so a place where she might rest, if she wishes to, is being put together along the GT Road.
The house is being built on a 39,369 square metre plot owned by the family trust of Mayawati. The residential compound will also house a huge conference room and a library, sources say.
It would have two grand parks flanking it, on the lines of a massive and controversial park in Noida. One of the two parks will share the name Gautam Buddha Park with the one in Noida. The other park is to be called the Ambedkar Park.
Even when she rests, Mayawati will be close to the Buddha and Ambedkar.
Barely 100 metres away a helipad is being constructed. It is expected to be completed in a month.
The trouble is, the house, the parks and the helipad are being constructed with government funds.
According to a source in the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority (GNIDA), the helipad, being constructed near a Public Works Department (PWD) guesthouse in Mayawati’s village, will cost Rs 324 lakh.
The two parks are to cost Rs 381 lakh and Rs 519 lakh respectively.
The total area of the village is 1,280 hectares. The populated area is 160 hectares. Eighty hectares have been acquired for Mayawati’s house.
Some land was also acquired from the surrounding villages of Bishnauli, Sadopur and Acheja.
The library/conference room coming up on Mayawati's property
The stretch along the GT Road, where the house is coming up, also houses a PWD guest house. Government officials overseeing the project stay there.
Walls 14-16 feet tall have been built to hide the view of the old village at the back of the house. The old village now looks like a slum compared to the cemented road and the grand buildings near Mayawati’s house.
Engineers at the construction site say the walls have been built taller than usual so the ‘aesthetic value and look of the house’ is not diluted.
Mayawati had left the old village when she was three after her father Prabhu Dayal landed a job in the Post & Telegraph department in Delhi many decades ago.
Prabhu Dayal now manages the family trust. Last year, Dayal wrote to Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee saying he needed help to clear the Income Tax issues against his name while he was alive.
Elders in Badalpur say Dayal, Mayawati, and her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) always had the unconditional support of the villagers.
But things changed after 2007 when the BSP formed a government in Uttar Pradesh on its own.
The 2007 victory saw a turnaround in the relationship between the villagers and Dayal. Mayawati’s attitude towards the villagers too changed dramatically, they say.
The unconditional support for her in Badalpur, across communities, has diminished as a result.
Mayawati’s father and relatives used to work on the farms owned by Jagdish Nambardar. Nambardar says he fell out with Dayal in 2007 because Dayal refused to see him at his new house in New Delhi.
Her house, as seen from the Grand Trunk Road
“He instructed his men not to let me disturb him ever and made me wait for hours and hours on the road,” Nambardar, now 80+, recalls. “He was a regular member of our family like others; work and farm yields were always shared equally.”
As a symbol of protest, Nambardar fought the local body election last year under the regional farmers’ union called Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (Farmers’ Struggle Committee). He won by a huge margin.
Badalpur has a sizeable Jatav population—close to 35 percent. But the Jatav families of the village echo Nambardar’s feeling of betrayal.
They too lost land so Mayawati’s grand house could come up.
Hari Ram (his name has been changed on request because he fears a backlash from BSP workers), is head of one of the families whose land was acquired for the new house.
He says, “Dayal called us to his house in New Delhi and abused us. He said ‘Idiots, are you going to stay as chamars (a word not used in public that basically means untouchable) forever? He said we need to shed our inhibitions and contribute to the Dalit movement. He forced us to sign the land sale papers. He fooled us.”
Ram alleges that after Dayal moved away from the village, there has only been land grabbing in the village in the name of development projects.
In 2009, the Supreme Court had asked Mayawati, in a personal capacity, why only her land, on which the bungalow is now coming up, was exempted from acquisition for the parks and the helipad.
The GNIDA had issued the notification for land acquisition in 2007 under an emergency clause.
A case was filed by Khazan Singh, owner of a 7,000 square metre plot next to Mayawati’s plot.
Singh lost the case because government records, apparently changed in 2006 before the acquisition process started, showed that Mayawati’s land fell under the non-agricultural category, which kept it out of the ambit of acquisition.
Interestingly, documents now show that all the land surrounding her plot falls under the agricultural category. And so it was acquired for the projects.
The park next to Mayawati's house, being developed by the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority
Many farmers protested the move to acquire land for these projects. A farmers union was formed under Rupesh Verma, a social activist from Sadopur village.
But, it was crushed within weeks and Verma was warned by GNIDA officials to refrain from ‘netagiri’ (meddling).
Most villagers around Badalpur see this GNIDA behaviour as a betrayal of their hopes and expectations.
They were not even offered work at the construction sites, they allege. Only migrant workers from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been employed.
Verma is miffed with the government and the administration, and enraged over the construction of the house. He calls it a palace.
“Why such grandeur? Just because every other chief minister has also done it. This shows that one feudal system is being replaced by another. Nobody is bothered about welfare measures,” he says.
Cashing in on such dissent, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party have extended support to various farmers’ movements ahead of the 2012 assembly polls.
But not everybody is against this symbolism.
“Every leader has been corrupt. At least Mayawati has done something for the Dalits while in power. So what if she too wants to build a bungalow for herself?” asks Sulad Khan, a Dalit Muslim from Badalpur.
Khan is also the caretaker of a beautiful new crematorium in the village. It is meant only for Dalits.
Gajraj Singh Nagar, a high-ranking BSP leader from the district who lives in Badalpur, refused to speak on this.
Now, the BSP workers in the district are now gearing up for grand celebrations.
Word is that once the helipad is ready, Mayawati would fly down from Lucknow for inspection of the construction sites.
Work on the helipad, the parks, and the grand house is being completed on a war footing.
All this is in an area where the Samajwadi Party had support, especially the Yadav-Thakur-Gujjar network. This base has weakened ever since Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav fell out.
The other populous caste in the region is the Jatavs, the highest in hierarchy among the Dalits of Uttar Pradesh. They consider themselves to be of the Kshatriya Shiva Gotra, claiming lineage from Lord Shiva. Many Jatavs also claim that the name has been derived from Yadav, thus claiming lineage of Lord Krishna too.
Jatavs make up nearly 57 percent of the Scheduled Castes in Uttar Pradesh. The BSP won from most of western Uttar Pradesh using its support among Jatavs in 2007.
Mayawati is a Jatav too.
Arpit Parashar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com.