10 September 2011

It's all Maya!

There are few organisations that have been as sensational and havoc-wreaking as WikiLeaks. I strongly believe in freedom of speech and transparency in matters of public policy and governance. However, it is also true that in matters of national security and public order, secrecy and discretion are paramount.
Somewhere these two important cornerstones seem to have become casualty of the WikiLeaks saga. We can look at this entire issue through the idea of the right to access information. But I think there is a more pertinent question that we should raise: at what and whose cost is this information flowing into the public domain?
For example, what about those hundreds of informers (and their families) that supplied crucial information to the international forces in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) whose lives are on the block now, after the Wikileaks revelations of their names?
On the other side, without WikiLeaks and other whistleblower organisations, we would never have come to know the shenanigans of some of our leaders. The latest disclosures about Mayawati, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, should come as an eye-opener. It is an open secret that she is corrupt; however, what is disconcerting is the sheer scale of the abuse of official machinery for personal gain.
I waded through the U.S. Embassy cables on Mayawati and for your information, I am reproducing one particular cable in full, while the rest are excerpts from other cables. I have also added the links to each cable.
One particular cable that created massive media sensation is titled Mayawati: Portrait of a Lady (for link to this cable click here.) I have reproduced the entire cable, because various media outlets have carried only excerpts and you would know the reasons for this when you read the media-business-politicians nexus in this cable. Please that the emphasis in bold is mine.
A wide range of business, political, academic and media contacts generally agreed that Chief Minister Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have done little to promote development since her May 2007 election.  According to several journalists, the law and order situation in UP has improved only in that Mayawati has centralized corruption in her own hands.  She has become a virtual paranoid dictator replete with food tasters and a security entourage to rival a head of state.  Civil servants will not speak to the press for fear of losing their positions.  Journalists admitted they feared retribution should they print anything negative about Mayawati.  One journalist claimed that all civil servants' and most journalists' phones are tapped. 
Politically, contacts noted that while Mayawati's support from Brahmins and Muslims may be waning, she remains extremely popular with her Dalit vote base.  Mayawati is obsessed with becoming Prime Minister and the BSP will spend huge sums in next year's national polls.
With all signs pointing to another coalition government in Delhi, Mayawati could be a powerbroker and perhaps even a king (or queen) maker.
All decisions must run through Mayawati or her very small coterie of advisors.  One Lucknow journalist related a story in which a State Minister was forced to do sit-ups in front of her as penance for not first asking permission to call on UP's governor.
Mayawati has institutionalized corruption with competitive fealty payments to her replacing shootouts.  Just to run as a BSP parliamentary candidate costs roughly 250,000 dollars.  This does not ensure victory of course, but with the BSP likely to field candidates in over 300 constituencies nationally, it does ensure Mayawati's campaign coffers will be full, in addition to all her other revenue sources including payoffs and kickbacks from almost every interaction that large businesses have with the state government, standard practices in UP.  In comparison, several commercial contacts in Lucknow and Kanpur spoke glowingly of the business climate in Gujarat and its Chief Minister, Narendra Modi.
Mayawati's full majority victory in May 2007 UP State Assembly elections left her beholden to no one and has allowed her to act on her eccentricities, whims and insecurities.  When she needed new sandals, her private jet flew empty to Mumbai to retrieve her preferred brand. According to Lucknow journalists, she employs nine cooks (two to cook, the others to watch over them) and two food tasters.  She fears assassination and demanded from the central government the highest level of protection available.  In addition to this outsized security apparatus, she constructed a private road from her residence to her office, which is cleaned immediately after her multiple vehicle convoy reaches its destination.  India has seen such political personalities before, and never failed to deal with them eventually at the ballot box.
Mayawati rarely speaks with the media and when she does hold a press conference, questions are not allowed. More worrying, Lucknow journalists claimed the government has tapped their phones as well as those of civil servants.  Most civil servants now refuse to talk to the press.  Reporters fear losing their jobs should they print anything negative about Mayawati.  Caving to political pressure, the Hindustan Times removed its Lucknow correspondent after she published a satirical piece about the Chief Minister. The newspaper's owners also operate sugar mills and chemical factories in UP.
Dalits will remain with Mayawati regardless of poor governance, simply because the fact that one of their own is Chief Minister provides them heretofore unimaginable pride.
As for Mayawati's dream of becoming Prime Minister, the most plausible scenario would entail weak performances nationwide by both the Congress Party and the BJP and a strong showing by Mayawati and other regional parties.  This would allow the BSP to dictate terms of a third front (non-Congress, non-BJP) coalition in Delhi.
While inflation, development and terrorism will be the "issues" in the coming national polls, caste remains the DNA of UP politics, and no one has demonstrated more ability at playing caste politics than Mayawati. 

Getting Even With Mulayam (Click here for the complete cable.)
[Mayawati] rules through fear and would "crush" or "wipe out" anyone who dared to challenge or contradict her.
The large Indian conglomerate Reliance was considered close to the Samajwadi Party and the Mulayam Singh Yadav regime in UP.  According to our interlocutors, after vandalism directed against new Reliance Fresh grocery stores in August, Mayawati acted harshly by shutting down Reliance stores in Lucknow and Varanasi.  Although farmers subsequently took to the streets demanding the reopening of these stores, Mayawati insisted her actions represented farmer friendly policies as well as restoration of law and order.  Journalists noted that people from every stratum of society were unhappy with the store closings.  A rumor Emboffs heard frequently was that Mayawati was looking for her cut from Reliance since her predecessor had already gotten his share.
[O]pen extortion-cum-donation fundraising of the BSP remains a standard facet of UP politics... While political corruption in UP shocks few, the alleged murder of M.K. Gupta by a sitting member of the state assembly exhibits a new brutality.  Even Mayawati - a first rate egomaniac...
While an alliance with the SP would seem more likely from an electoral demographic standpoint, a Congress MP told visiting SCA Deputy Assistant Secretary Evan Feigenbaum that he thought Congress would ally SIPDIS post-poll with the BSP because, "Sonia has a soft spot for Mayawati."  If that is true, her words do not show it.
The Congress Party is so weak in UP that unless the party aligns with the BSP or the SP ahead of the polls, the "mother and son are in danger of losing their own parliamentary seats," according to one Political Section contact.
I think the U.S. embassy officials have a better understanding of what's happening in our political and economic spheres than our so-called media experts. Even if our media has knowledge of the shenanigans of our politicians they seem to lack the courage of conviction of publishing such news and empowering the citizens of this being-taken-for-a-ride-nation.

Do you believe that the proposed Jan Lokpal bill will bring in any change to clean up the gutter of Indian politics? I am very pessimistic; why? Do you believe they will bring in a law that will spell death-knell for them?  


Srinivas Osuri said...

i was aghast after reading this article.Y.S.Jagan is under CBI scrunity but can we ever bring Mayawati to justice?

Srinivas Osuri said...

sir there is a lot of talk about Rahul Gandhi's nationality,his life and faux pas he commits.can you share your opinion on this??

RAHUL said...

sir, i dont know why we elect such idiots and then cry for that.i dont know why educated people dont stand for such post( i know that u hate politics as a career). i dont know why my fellow people knowing everything about jagan or mayawati or thousands like them, take any action..

Dheep Joy said...