IF there is one thing the average Hindu would want to feel proud of, it is that he is not intolerant. Think of this: The ruling party is today headed by an Italian-born Roman Catholic who runs the country. The Prime Minister is a Sikh. The Vice-President is a Muslim and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, not to speak of the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are dalits. The Speaker besides, is a woman, which other country, pray, can show such liberalism? Not a single country in the world. The so-called upper caste Hindu, besides, suffers from an enormous guilt complex vis-à-vis dalits, for treating them for centuries as untouchables, no matter what various social reformers like Dasaveshwara in Karnataka have striven to change the mind-set of people.
That is why, one suspects, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in her fourth term can get away with anything. Mayawati is a dalit and she has been exploiting the guilt-complex effectively. She must be one of the most corrupt Chief Minister India ever had, but she gets away scot-free. But it is time the truth about her assets is revealed even if, presently, she has got a reprieve. The CBI has already told the Supreme Court that it has ample evidence of her illegal wealth. Much of it is available in a remarkable biography of the lady, entitled Behnji, authored by Ajoy Bose and published by no less a firm than Penguin/Viking.
It must be remembered that Bose’s findings have never been challenged. But what are they? The CBI listed the immovable assets of Mayawati and her family as follows: 41 agricultural plots, 16 residential plots, 7 shops, three orchards, two shops-cum-residences located in and around Delhi; a mansion in her ancestral village of Badalpur, described by NDTV as a mini-Taj Mahal, buit on a sprawling 30,000 square yards estate.
According to a CBI list filed in 2003, Mayawati then had assets worth Rs 36.5 million in one bank account and Rs 2.345 million in another. In 2004 she had Rs 1.5 million in cash and Rs 97.8 million in bank accounts and jewellery worth Rs 3.09 million. In 2007 her moveable assets included Rs 5.02 million in cash, Rs 128.8 million in bank deposits and jewellery worth Rs 5.08 million. Giving further details of her jewellery, Mayawati listed 1035.260 grammes of gold 76.040 grammes of diamonds and 18,500 kgs of silver. She also admitted owning murals worth Rs 1.5 million. According to Mayawati’s own self-evaluation from two affidavits her financial worth including both moveable and immoveable assets jumped from Rs 160.7 million in 2004 to Rs 520 million in 2007.
Bose says that in the late ‘90s, the BSP ran a year-long collection drive so that they could give birthday gifts of Rs. 6,50,000 to Kanshi Ram her mentor to celebrate his 65th birth-day and Rs 420,000 to her to celebrate her 42nd birthday. How nice. Comments Bose: “There is no credible explanation why these large donations, even if contributed by party workers, have been used for mansions, farm houses, commercial plots, jewellery and bank deposits in the name of Mayawati and her close relatives.” Bose adds: “Condemnation of Mayawati’s vast wealth and lavish spending must be tempered with the recognition of the general absence of any kind of moral code in Indian politics, when it comes to money- most of them, if investigated as rigorously as the BSP leader, would also stand exposed of accumulated properties, money and jewellery beyond their obvious means. It is a malaise that affects the country’s political system as a whole-”
And, by way of proving it, Bose credits the Tamil Nadu leader Jayalalithaa with assets worth Rs 240 million, followed by M Karunanidhi with Rs 220 million and Andhra Pradesh’s Chandrababu Naidu with Rs 210 million though Bose admits that none of them have even half the wealth that Mayawati who was born in a lower middle class dalit home of a government clerk with many dependents, has. How did she manage to accumulate that much wealth? Will the CBI kindly elaborate? What is even more sickening is Mayawati’s attempts to spend Rs 3.8 crore of public money on eight statues of hers and Rs 3.37 crore for seven statues of her mentor Kanshi Ram to be installed in Uttar Pradesh and worse still, to spend Rs 52.20 crore to set up 60 statues of elephants-the election symbol of the BSP-in the State. It is total misuse of public money in an obvious case of self-aggrandisement. But who cares? Fancy the Chief Minister spending Rs 1.55 crore a piece on a 24-ft high bronze statue of herself and another similar of Kanshi Ram! The issue may have been taken to the Supreme Court but by and large the people of Uttar Pradesh have taken the matter lightly.
After all Mayawati is a dalit, isn’t she? And dalits in the past have been ill-treated, haven’t they? So what is wrong with Mayawati taking her revenge? What is wrong, indeed. Our attitude is one of chaltha hai. Anything goes. Till recently the CBI was breathing down her neck in the disproportionate assets and Taj corridor cases but she has received a breather now because she has rushed to the UPA government’s support on the cut motion issue. If she had gone against the government the CBI would probably have got at her throat; she has now temporarily saved herself and never mind what the public thinks of the UPA.
The same thing happened in the case of Shibu Soren who ditched the BJP to keep the UPA government going. There has been a criminal case against Soren, but these can wait. After all, he is a tribal, isn’t he? Like Mayawati being a dalit, isn’t she? How can anyone blame them? But then we learn from an RTI failed by The Times of India that governments headed by leaders of various parties have withdrawn criminal cases against 51 political leaders in the past ten years, the beneficiaries including Ministers, MLAs, former Ministers and former MLAs. In most cases the State Government withdrew cases using its power under Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code. We live in a sick society which provides political parties to forgive crimes if thereby they can continue to stay in power. It is as plain as that. Does the media have a role to play in this connection? Yes, it has. Does it play it? No, it doesn’t. Why should it when by playing it, it invites retribution? Mayawati saved the UPA government in time, she has been amply awarded. So what’s there to talk about?