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Posted on 10 August 2011
Arpit Parashar

Why Mayawati is immune

Arpit Parashar explains how and why the BSP appears untouchable in Uttar Pradesh

Mayanglambam Dinesh

UTTAR PRADESH has recorded a substantial rise in the number of cases registered against Dalits in the past three years. From 1,412 registered cases in 2008, the figure climbed to 1,698 in 2010. The rise in crime against women has also shot up over the past few years and more incidents of rapes and honour killings are being reported from across the state. For a state led by a woman, and a Dalit chief minister, this should sound trouble. But the Mayawati government seems unperturbed. The scheduled meetings between the National Commission for Scheduled Castes chair PL Punia and state government officials have been consistently ignored. National Commission for Women chair Yasmin Abrar has also not been treated too well by the state commission for women. Punia and Abrar have been crying hoarse over it. But nobody seems to be listening. The priority has instead been given to preparations for the upcoming assembly session, which will be the last ahead of the 2012 assembly poll.

So why is Mayawati, hitherto hailed as a master politician who engineered an unimaginable victory by winning over a voter base constituted by all caste and class groups, ignoring these issues ahead of the poll? The answer lies probably in the sociopolitical nature of Uttar Pradesh, the functioning of the administration and the recent history of political rule in UP, whose population is more than that of Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world, and where more people live in villages than the number of people living in the four metros of India. With the highest percentage of upper castes for any state and a huge OBC population, UP has always been mired in clashes. Feudal systems are hard to break. Caste clashes, honour killings, atrocities on Dalits and women have all existed for centuries. And there are no signs that these would cease soon.


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Ever since the Brahmin-dominated Congress lost control of Uttar Pradesh and the state saw the rise of the socialists, the ground level situation has aggravated the ancient animosity between the OBCs and the SCs and STs. The rise of Charan Singh and later Mulayam Singh Yadav gave the Jats and Yadavs, the traditional farming communities, their share of representation in the political milieu. But the assertion also gave rise to caste differences as the OBCs became too powerful at the village level.

The immediate sufferers were the Dalits. The OBCs and the zamindars, mostly Thakurs, have been the predominant landowners in the state. After the abolition of zamindari and the Land Reforms Act in 1950, there has been no major land reform in the state and exploitation of the Dalits, mostly farm workers, has been as rampant as it was before independence. The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party through the Ram Janmabhoomi movement did not provide relief either; instead it ignored the caste dynamics as the Hindutva brigade succeeded in dividing the state along religious lines.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) found instant acceptability and success as the predominantly casteist political setup kept the Dalits out of the fray. The Dalits became the party’s permanent voter base and their political assertion started taking shape. The Samajwadi Party and the BSP, representing the caste groups perpetually in conflict, became permanent adversaries after a highly ambitious coalition attempt failed. As the Hindutva movement became failed and the Brahmins realised that power would henceforth rest between the BSP and the SP, other parties became marginal players. The fight was now to retain the permanent voter base and win over other castes to build a larger base. Mayawati managed to do it in 2007.

But not without help from the Samajwadi Party. Political assertion apart, the Samajwadi Party grew to be a party of goons and the corrupt. And with the Thakurs backing the party, it also developed casteist agendas and fuelled the growth of a neo-kshatriya movement with Yadavs at the forefront. Because of a combination of these agendas and no semblance of control over the state, the traditional Samajwadi Party voters were the only ones left with it within ten years. The party was taken over by a strictly OBC force, which no longer understood the dynamics of electoral politics.

THE NATURE of the crimes being reported by the media and the central agencies also acquires importance. Crime in India is measured by the number of cases officially registered in police stations. They ignore the cases that get solved and the perpetrators who are brought to book. The figures reported till now suggest that more cases have been reported and registered than during the tenure of the previous government. This is barely surprising considering that it took the lives of at least 19 young women and children at Nithari for the police to act. The level of incompetence shown by the authorities, including the state government, was appalling – the then pwd minister, brother of the then chief minister, called it a minor incident and said such things keep happening in the state. And all this happened in New Delhi’s suburb of Noida, barely 25 kilometers from parliament.

The BSP came up with a plan that fitted into the scheme of things in UP extremely well. People from different communities and castes were given tickets as the party decided to expand its voter base while taking along its traditional Dalit voters. The voters were fed up with the Samajwadi Party and were willing to look for a change. Muslims endorsed the BSP as did the Brahmins. Large populations of non-Yadav OBCs supported Mayawati as she opened up opportunities through electoral representation. Mayawati gave them the change. She did not repeat the mistakes of the previous governments; not even her own. The administration has been handled sternly. Officers have been held accountable and performances judged regularly. Officials have started calling her headmasterni drawing from her background as a government schoolteacher and her tendency to dictate to officials.

Her sternness has worked with the police too. In a state where crime went largely unreported, the number of registered cases has gone up and the results are more visible. A criminal can no longer get away with a crime easily as the officials face the wrath if results are not delivered. Frequent transfers have ceased to be a norm. Instead, an official has to perform or be reprimanded harshly in case of failure. Suspensions follow for the whole team if the leader fails to perform. There are no figures on how many cases have been solved faster than expected or was previously imaginable but Mayawati has enough reasons to snub Punia and Abrar. She knows that her performance is probably better known to the people in the villages.

Arpit Parashar is Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
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Posted on 10 August 2011



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