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Maya's magic: Dalits pull disappearing act at rally

Maya's magic: Dalits pull disappearing act at rally

Author: Ashutosh Bhardwaj
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: May 9, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/mayas-magic-dalits-pull-disappearing-act-a/456555/

Introduction: People leave midway as they feel the benefit of having a BSP Govt has been hogged by the powerful among SCs

The campaign trail of BSP chief Mayawati, in effect, is no trail at all. All you are left to follow is the dust kicked off by her chopper. There are no roadshows, no visits to people's homes, no handshakes with voters.

In Mitauli block of Kheri on Thursday, she landed, waved, read out a speech, waved again, and the chopper took off.

Her programmes are mostly fixed by UP Minister of Mines Babu Lal Kushwaha and Pradip Singh, a young engineer, who left his software business for the chief. "We will try if you can accompany her in the aircraft, but it's at her discretion," her closest aide told this reporter, "but you can share the dais with her."

Can her pictures be taken when she is onstage? "No, no... Manch par ye sab cheezen mat kar daliyega (Don't do all these things on the dais). We will lose our jobs," pat came the reply. "She doesn't talk to anyone."

Mayawati doesn't look at others - even at a few BSP leaders, including the candidates from Kheri and Dhaurahra, sitting behind her. "I saw her up close, this was enough," said a BSP leader.

The audience, mostly Dalits, in the rally are ferried from two Dalit-dominated constituencies, Kheri and newly constituted Dhaurahra. They have been braving the heat since 10.30 am, but their party chief arrives past 3 pm.

The BSP supremo begins on the same note she has been using across the country: "Aaj main aap logon ke saamne kuch baaten rakhna chahti hun (Today, I want to tell you a few things)." The entire speech is almost a repetition of what she spoke in Pilibhit, or before that in Agra or Delhi, the only change being region-specific references like Varun Gandhi and names of local candidates.

The tone and tenor of her speech also remains the same. Almost in a monotonous pitch, without getting into a feverish high, unlike her earlier years, she comes down on the Congress, which denied the special package to UP and is thus responsible for the Dalits' plight.

Mayawati is so engrossed in herself that she doen't notice that people are leaving her rally midway. "Hum to helicopter dekhne aaye the, dekh liya, ab ja rahe hain (We came only to watch the helicopter. We've seen it, and now we are leaving)," said a youth.

"I have attended many of her rallies. But of late, I notice people - surprisingly, Dalits - leaving midway," said the driver of a vehicle attached to the party's campaign across the state.

Although BSP candidate from Dhaurahra Rajesh Verma said the people might have left for daily chores, others differed. Said Vinod Kumar, who left the rally midway: "The entire benefit accruing from having a BSP Government has been hogged by powerful castes among the SCs. Other SCs are still languishing. Nothing much has been done in the two years since the BSP came to power."

"Behenji is not at fault. She is surrounded by middlemen and her coterie, who do not let our grievances reach her," said Dinesh Kumar.

As Mayawati exhorted people to make the 'Dalit ki beti' the Prime Minister, Dalit residents of Haidar Nagar - an Ambedkar village a short distance from her rally ground - are yet to see a bulb or a tap in their huts.

"The electric poles are there but we haven't been given connections. The Rs 36,000 allotted for the Mahamaya Housing Scheme to construct homes is disbursed only when Rs 8,000 is paid to the pradhan," said a villager.

In fact, many villages around the Mitauli rally ground - Azad Nagar, Khamariya, Pipariya-Paliya - have no electricity.

Admitted former BSP president of Kheri district Umashankar Gautam, "Raidas and Pasis are the most prominent castes among SCs. The others, including Kori, Dhobi, Khatik, are lagging behind."

Of the 17 seats allotted by the BSP to SC candidates in UP, all except one have gone either to Pasis or Raidas - the caste Mayawati belongs to. Over 50 castes are registered as SC in the state.

"The Raidas began political mobilisation earlier and hence are in a powerful position. It is just the beginning for others. True, many SCs have grievances. But they will nevertheless vote for us," said a BSP leader in Lucknow.

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