Explore this blog by clicking on the labels listed along the right-hand sidebar. There are lots of interesting stuff which you won't find on the home page
Seriously curious about me? Click on ' What sort of person am I?'

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Don't demonize Mayavati!

I write but rarely on purely political stuff, but this is election season, and this article in The Telegraph of the 16th April caught my eye. I remember hearing lots of people – including some very nice and well-informed people – lamenting or expressing horror at the prospect that Ms. Mayavati, maverick chief Minister of India’s most populous state, seems to be becoming more strident and confident about the chances of her becoming Prime Minister of India, if not this time round, then soon. Mukul Kesavan’s article should come as a very good rejoinder (and maybe even reassurance) to all of them!

Ms. Mayavati may be guilty of everything she is accused of – arrogant, ruthless, greedy, autocratic, crude, devious, sneaky and occasionally violent when it suits her. She is not even pretty to look at. But if these were criteria that seriously ruled out anybody from becoming PM in India, the vast majority of our MPs would be disqualified (as indeed they would be in most democratic countries of the world – politics is not for nice and gentle and seriously moralistic people, yet it is more socially necessary than almost every other profession, so it attracts the tough-hearted, flexible and ambitious everywhere!). She is not, by our elastic standards, uneducated (she holds LlB and B.Ed. degrees, and has been employed as a teacher). She is a very big income tax payer (if wikipedia has got its facts right) - not a common virtue among our politicians. She has now acquired as much experience at ruling vast masses as any other aspirant for the country’s top job can claim to have, and has done no worse a job than ten other CMs I could name. Numerous other people, blessed by high pedigree and privilege (a combination of high caste, big money and wide and powerful family connections) have come into politics only to display the same nasty characteristics she is accused of, in equal if not greater measure.

Our real complaint against her, I am sure, is our visceral hatred of a woman, and a Dalit (once called ‘untouchable’) woman at that, wielding power in what is supposed to be exclusively a man’s world, and frequently getting the better of lots of men at it. We have again and again forgiven, even applauded lots of male and high-caste, ‘cultured’ (“one of us”) politicians for all the sins that we want to crucify her for. And it is precisely for this reason that I shall root for her along with Mukul Kesavan, despite lamenting all her faults: if we were a slightly more civilized, slightly more honestly progressive society, we would cheer and celebrate Ms. Mayavati as the poster girl of Indian democracy – the woman who is embodying the secret, hardly ever articulated, highest aspirations of maybe two-thirds of the Indian population (if you add up all the poor people in India who are also Dalits, and most particularly all deprived and marginalized women, Dalit or otherwise). If that two-thirds can get together and vote singlemindedly for this cause, Mayavati should get the throne on behalf of all of them. That will be a social revolution to cap all social revolutions – the biggest blow to several thousand years of cruel, systematic, institutionalized, countrywide discrimination against the real deprived silent majority.

After that, we can only pray that she will be a better ruler than we had dared to hope. And that, Mayavati having shown the way, a far better, greater, grander specimen of humanity – someone like Joan of Arc, maybe? – will rise from the ranks of the great unwashed masses of India someday and follow in her footsteps to lead India into an age of glory. It is good to have big dreams, but it is better to give little ones a chance!

13 comments:

Tanmoy said...

As far as I know Kanshiram’s movement to ensure social respect for Dalits was noble until it went corrupt. Mayawati (earlier known as Behenji and now Madam because she feels that name suits her better now) was his favorite worker. As Kanshiram grew older, Mayawati became powerful. After Kanshiram’s death of course, Mayawati became the face of Dalits from Uttar Pradesh. Undoubtedly she is focused on what she wants and I must say she is doing fine to become one of the key politicians in the national level. Personally, I don’t like her.

My dislike is not because of her being a not so good looking Dalit woman. I don’t like her because of her arrogance and megalomania. The kind of events see organizes like the big birthday bashes where she forces people to donate money and jewelry to her, scares me.

Just because a million male, upper caste politicians are thieves and criminals does not mean she needs to be that too. If she has chosen to be one of them then she commands no respect at least from my side. I can’t see a leader in her who feels pride in her corrupt acts. I am not sure whether she is working for the Dalits anymore or just using them as a ladder to move up to the top.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I am deeply saddened, Tanmoy, that you, of all people, should have rushed off a comment after one obviously very hurried and careless reading! I'm sure that after you have read the blogpost (and Kesavan's article)all over again more calmly and attentively, you will feel like acknowledging that you missed several things I had said, and read more than one thing into my writing which I had NOT said.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Funny that so few people should have anything to say on this subject. Remarkable, too, that my posts on subjects like books and poetry also fetch very few comments! Says something not very complimentary about the sort of netizens who visit this blog, doesn't it? I wish I could get to know more thinking people who are not too lazy or too incompetent to write what they think in good and polite language!

Shilpi said...

Suvro da,
I can hardly comment on posts about politics - I really don't understand the first thing about it. I am very stupid and slow when it comes to understanding anything about politics. I don't understand how people get into politics (even the technical side of it) or how it works or how people make things work or how governments run nations or how political debates get resolved or whether they really ever do. Not only do I not understand any of it but it's one of those things - much like complex readings of policies and legal cases, which really just go over the top of my head after a while. I know there's no hope of my understanding politics. I have a defective brain when it comes to politics and not all of it has to do with having a weak memory.

As for the books you've talked about: I haven't read any of them, and so I haven't commented.

And for your posts on poems: I keep re-reading them, and thinking about them quite deeply - but somehow I never can write a comment on them -and that goes for the old, old post(s) on poems as well.

I am not trying to excuse myself - even though the above might sound thus. It's more of an explanation really. I read this post (and Mukul Kesavan's article) with interest and with a sad discomfiting feeling in the pit of my tum'. It might as well have been an esaay on some bit of theoretical physics for me (with some differences).
Sorry!
Take care.
Shilpi

Aakash said...

Mayavati has been a perplexity to the Indian ‘intelligentsia’ and is being touted as India’s Obama. Why? Perhaps because she is the only Dalit, and a woman, who has used the electoral process to reach dizzying heights in politics. Also, one must not forget that she does not really conform to the stereotype of the ‘woman’ in Indian politics. She is a phenomenon even to the generation that faced the iron hand of Indira Gandhi because she has no antecedent in politics.

I agree that UP is next to hell. But then, how different is it from those proposing Modi’s name as the next PM? Communal tensions have been far less in UP as long as she’s been in office. And, at least she isn’t dropout from some funky course in a foreign university. Yet, this disconnect.

The support for Mayavati raises a lot of questions that we are unprepared to answer. We, the well-fed, well-clothed and, let’s say, decently housed cannot criticize Mayavati because it is we who nurture a system that propagates domination over lower classes/castes.

Aakash said...

Mayavati has been a perplexity to the Indian ‘intelligentsia’ and is being touted as India’s Obama. Why? Perhaps because she is the only Dalit, and a woman, who has used the electoral process to reach dizzying heights in politics. Also, one must not forget that she does not really conform to the stereotype of the ‘woman’ in Indian politics. She is a phenomenon even to the generation that faced the iron hand of Indira Gandhi because she has no antecedent in politics.

I agree that UP is next to hell. But then, how different is it from those proposing Modi’s name as the next PM? Communal tensions have been far less in UP as long as she’s been in office. And, at least she isn’t dropout from some funky course in a foreign university. Yet, this disconnect.

The support for Mayavati raises a lot of questions that we are unprepared to answer. We, the well-fed, well-clothed and, let’s say, decently housed cannot criticize Mayavati because it is we who nurture a system that propagates domination over lower classes/castes.

Anurupa Ganguli said...

Sir I know very little about politics. Still your post made me think and this is why I am writing this. Please forgive me if I am wrong.

The thought of supporting Mayavati did not surprise me very much. This is because what I would quote'"Why should boys (here men though) have all the fun?" If politics is about pursuading the poor and ignorant about their noble deeds, why should not the women too play a little part? After all, India is a socialist country and everyone should get equal opportunities of tasting the icing on the cake. Right Sir?

Next, choosing and supporting the right politician is a very difficult job. In a coulntry where all the politicians have come to fulfill their own selfish needs and fill their tummies, each of them are equally bad. So, whether its Mayavati or Mamata, or Lalu Prasad or L.K.Advani, the lives of common people are always going to be the same. (Still so many of us fail to understand this).

I really doubt if there is going to be any change in the present scenario if Mayavati or any other opposing party come to power. All the politicians are the same and they have struggled all their lives definitely not to serve their country but to see to it that their next ten generations can live lavishly without having to work!!

I laugh aloud when I hear about the leaders campaigning and shouting in the microphone and declaring about the "developments" in the society during their regime. "Developments" like many other words have got a variety of meaning. I have heard many people say , "Budhadeb Bhattacharya has done so much development in West Bengal by establishing engineering colleges" or " Look at Ram Vilas Paswan! He is the right man and had given so many Biharis a source of income but what had Mamata done?"

What they fail to understand is that oue Chief Minister had merely produced a whole lot of engineers who know nothing about their subjects and microxerox their textbooks to get passed. Again it is a fashion nowadays that the students will be getting a supple and would pass the moment they deposit the fees required for rechecking!

As for our Steel Minister, he might have given a lot of Biharis jobs but meanwhile he had also deprived a lot of deserving candidates and increased his bank balance. (P.S. I have no personal hatred for Biharis and forgive me if I have hurt anyone's sentiments)

So if Mayavati does the same I will definitely not be surprised. At least she has the courage to stand in politics and had stood by the Dalits. Anyway supporting a woman is a welcoming idea today.

That is all I have to say. I thank God that I am not 18 for, I do not have to vote because the whole concept of "government of the people, for the people and by the people" is disgusting to me.

Sayak Shome said...

I think,Mayawati has been demonized by the media.Most of the news channels and newspapers are politically biased.I do not say that they provide us with wrong information,but they tell us the half truth.In some cases a half truth can be more disastrous than a lie.
A few days ago I was watching a program on NDTV,where an eminent personality said that the media takes two truths and present them together in such a way that it might mean something which is very different from the real fact.
I was watching a news channel,where a person was supposed to say something against the CPIM,but I was not fortunate enough to listen to that because when the person was about to start,the audio output of that particular channel went off.I suppose it was a coincidence,or was it?
Having turned eighteen and having got my voter id card,I can exercise my fundamental right,that is to vote,in this elections,but I do not really know whom to vote.It is not that I am very ill informed about politics;I try really hard to find out whom shall I vote,watching news channels,reading news papers and magazines,yet I have not been able to make up my mind.I have not come across a single political party whose claims are not ambiguous or they have not contradicted themselves for at least once.Sometimes I laugh looking at them.When some of the politicians of different parties appear together on television,it is nothing less than a cheap reality show,where they hurl abuses at each other,do not refrain from acts of profanity and sometimes speak completely off the point just to save their backs.
I did not like Mayawati as such,owing to the little knowledge I had had,but after reading this blogpost of yours,my perceptions about her have somewhat changed.

Paromita Bhattacharya said...

Respected Sir,

Please take a look at this link: http://www.thestatesman.net/page.arcview.php?date=2009-06-16&usrsess=1&clid=2&id=290645

I would request you to write your impressions on this.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks for commenting as also for the link, Paromita. I hope some others read it too, and form their own judgments.

As for my own views: 1) criticising Gandhi to attract media attention is a very old ploy, and it does not disturb the opinions of those who know what Gandhi did and really respect him for it; 2) as someone has rightly remarked, it is like flinging mud at the sun!; 3) after all, it is the democratic right of every citizen, whether CM or sweeper, to criticise whoever she likes; it is equally the right of all others to judge her from her comments!; 4) I shall stick to my header, 'Don't demonize Mayavati', despite knowing all the bad things about her, for the reasons I have given in the blogpost itself. Meanwhile, I shall keep praying that the Dalits of this country may get a better leader than she is...

Asokan said...

by chance happened to read the blog (to day) which brings a bit of fresh air , though 6 months have passed can't resist the urge to express my views. Very rarely one finds such unbiased / views written in media.Both Mukul Kesavan and Suvro Chatterjee must be appreciated for their analysis .

When it comes to caste , all virtues of a dalit are ignored and vices magnified, and vice a versa for a high caste.

It seems natural for Sindhyas, Nehru/Gandhis to become PM of this country irrespective of their contribution/capability.(..naturally all of them are assured of best education...and are generally capable ) , but there are others also who fight against all kinds of odds ( caste descrimination,gender discrimination, discrimination based on colour ,looks, financial status,family background etc.) Some of them have all these odds against them together. Can't we give some credit for their achievements?

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Many thanks for commenting, Asokan (though I wish you had given your name and email i.d.: I'd love to talk to gentlefolk like you). It is never too late to comment: these are topics that do not date easily, and I do wish more people would read and comment on my older posts...

I am at one with you entirely in wishing that the people who have so many unfair and age-old prejudices ranged against them by birth were given a more fighting chance, if only because they are so numerous that as long as they are all kept outside the mainstream of development in the fullest sense of the word, India will never become a 'developed' country. Rather, it bodes ill for a country where maybe 200 million 'progress' rapidly while almost a thousand million simply stare wistfully and angrily...

Asokan said...

name: C.Asokan
email address:casokan@hotmail.com