Mayawati’s comeback script boosted by Supreme Court clean chit
Verdict has given her much needed political strength ahead of the Parliamentary elections in 2014
Virendra Nath Bhatt
Emboldened by the recent Supreme Court verdict giving her a clean chit in the disproportionate assets case related to the Rs 175 crore Taj Heritage corridor scam , Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, is all set to pursue a more aggressive and combative political plan in Uttar Pradesh. The SC verdict has not only given the much needed political strength to Mayawati, it has also enabled her to fight back ahead of the crucial Parliamentary elections in 2014. The Supreme Court verdict is the first piece of good news for former Chief Minister after her loss in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections held in March 2012.
The SC verdict could not have come at more opportune time for the BSP chief and her former cabinet colleagues who are being investigated by the Lokayukta and other agencies. The charges include corruption, financial irregularities in construction of memorials, parks and statues of Dalit icons during the Mayawati rule, May 2003-March 2012, in Uttar Pradesh. The Samajwadi Party (SP) government has already instituted probe into the alleged irregularities in the privatisation of public sector sugar mills, where the mills were sold for a much lower price than the market value.
Mayawati, has already announced that she will give six months to the SP government to “perform and deliver” on their promises to the people. “Right now we are not going to launch an agitation against the SP government. However, we will not wait after that as law and order is deteriorating and Akhilesh Yadav has proved to be the weak CM,” said Swami Prasad Maurya, state BSP president and the leader of the opposition in UP Assembly.
Critics allege that the SP government headed by CM Akhilesh Yadav has not only scrapped dozen of Dalit welfare schemes and also threatened use Dalit memorials as public utilities. Mayawati had issued a stern warning to the SP government any attempt to tamper with the Dalit memorials can have nation-wide law and order repercussions. Though the SP has so far not initiated any moves for alteration in the memorials occupying over 1,000 acres of prime land in state capital, the threat remains.
Besides this so far as many as nine FIRs have been lodged and over a dozen senior officials of the Public Works Department and UP state construction corporation, have been suspended. These two government agencies had executed the Dalit memorial projects with an expenditure of over Rs 5,500 crore. The police are hot on trial of the money that changed hands and many more senior officers and senior BSP leaders are set to face the heat of the investigation agencies.
More trouble is brewing for Mayawati as the former associates of the BSP founder and Mayawati’s mentor, late Kanshiram, are spearheading a 'National campaign to save Bahujan Samaj Movement ', to gain control of the Bahujan Samaj Party. Headed by Pramod Kureel, a former associate of Kanshiram from the early days has held several meetings in Delhi and now they plan to hold meetings in each district of Uttar Pradesh to unite the former BSP leaders discarded by Mayawati. Samajwadi Party, for obvious reason is too eager to extend tacit support to any move which can weaken the BSP.
The significance of the statement issued by Mayawati, issued soon after the SC verdict, was not lost by the political observers. Mayawati without elaborating said, "I welcome the SC verdict. I sincerely thank all my party members. My party members stood like a rock beside me and never left me in any circumstance and backed me during this case, even after facing lots of ups and downs over 10 years." She added, "I thank the party leaders and rank and file for their support and confidence reposed in my leadership’’.
Reminding the party cadres of the legacy of Kanshiram, Mayawati said "Kanshiram fought a relentless battle against injustice and for Dalits. Nothing could deter him from his mission, some forces are conspiring against the movement but they will never succeed’’.
In July 2003, following the PIL, the Supreme Court had directed the CBI to conduct preliminary inquiry and submit the report to the court, into the alleged misappropriation of funds in what was known as the Taj Corridor in Agra. A beautification project around the Taj Mahal proposed that the area around it be developed for commercial exploitation. The project was launched without obtaining mandatory clearance from the union ministry of environment and forest and Archaeological Survey of India. The project was later scrapped. As a spin-off from that case, the CBI filed an FIR against Mayawati and four others in October 2003, accusing her of misusing her term as chief minister for personal gain.
Mayawati had challenged the charge of DA against her before the income tax tribunal which had ruled in her favour. The Delhi High Court had also upheld the Income tax tribunal’s findings. The CBI, however, argued that it had enough evidence to prove that Mayawati possessed assets disproportionate to her declared assets which jumped from Rs 1 crore in 2003 to Rs 50 crore in 2007. Mayawati, however, maintained that much of the money that was being questioned had been donated by party workers. According to the income tax returns filed by Mayawati her income in 2007 was Rs 52.27 crore which increased to Rs 88 crore in 2010 and Rs 111 crore in 2012.
Virendra Nath Bhatt is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka. firstname.lastname@example.org