Mayawati the prime ministerial hopeful – can she be compared to Obama?
Forbes magazine has ranked Mayawati (chief minister of Uttar Pradesh) number 59 in the list of the world’s 100 most powerful women. The magazine considers her to be “in the running” for prime minister. Much has been written about the possibility of Mayawati becoming Prime Minister, but frankly I don’t know what to make of it.
When I first heard that Mayawati could become the next PM I didn’t take it seriously, but the more I hear it, the more real it becomes. They say that coalition politics will force various parties to agree to her candidature as she commands (as head of the BSP) a large number of MP’s.
It’s the allegations of corruption against her that make her a poor candidate in my view, but then the Indian political reality dictates that corruption allegations mean little. A large percentage of politicians in all states are corrupt and they are corrupt irrespective of their caste or class or region or political party. The fact that they are in power is living proof that the majority of people don’t think corruption is a critical issue. Which means (in a democracy) that Mayawati could well make it to the top slot. And if not her, someone else with similar allegations against them.
The middle class (at best 250-300m) can rave and rant but they are well and truly outnumbered. That is if they care to vote at all. If they care about politics at all.
As Swaminatham A Aiyar writes:
Many middle class Indians want a prime minister from their class who is honest, principled and erudite; who can debate intellectual issues with the best in the world. Mayawati does not qualify.
Mayawati doesn’t qualify but this is a democracy and the majority decides. In any case, how many people does our present Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh represent anyway? He’s the PM thanks to our parliamentary system. In a presidential system, Madame Gandhi could well have been the undisputed one.
Aiyar makes another pertinent point and this is where some people see parallels with Barack Obama:
If she [Mayawati] becomes PM, India can claim to be the most empowering democracy in the world. Nowhere else has a woman from the bottom of the social and gender ladders risen to the top.
Symbols matter whether we like it or not and this could be used to “prove” that India doesn’t stop anybody from rising.
Obama and Mayawati – the right comparison?
Some people have compared the rise of Obama to the rise of Mayawati but Jug Suraiya opines that the comparison can be misleading as African Americans have broken more barriers than Dalits. Also, Barack Obama has a far greater acceptance level in America than Mayawati has in India. In any case it is a gross simplification to compare the two…
I read something interesting at root.com. It is a piece written by an African American. If we interchange key words (I have also crossed out some things that don’t apply) we get a fair idea as to whether the comparison between Obama and Mayawati has any merit at all. In any case I am not sure why everyone calls Obama black when he is half-white. Here is the piece:
If Obama Mayawati becomes the president prime minister, every remaining, powerfully felt black dalit grievance and every still deeply etched injustice will be cast out of the realm of polite discourse. White Upper Caste folks will just stop listening.
A black dalit president prime minister means that America India no longer has any race caste problem to talk about! It would mean there is no longer any special debt to African Americans dalits to be repaid! Kiss that 40 acres and a mule goodbye, my friends…
What black dalit folks fear is that a monumental success for one black dalit man woman might simultaneously become a setback for the whole race caste.
Affirmative action in employment and higher education is already greatly weakened by state and local referenda protests around the country as well as by court rulings and federal administrative practices. Our public schools educational institutions remain troublingly segregated.
Yes, there is still a deep racial wound in the soul of America India. It will be years before the wound has really healed. African Americans Dalits have every right to press for serious redress of these grievances, and we must insist that our community leaders do so.
But, I also submit, it is not the task of a presidential prime ministerial candidate to make this his or her core agenda…
Obama’s Mayawati’s success is unalloyed grounds for celebration and rejoicing. It says great things about how far the nation has come and about the future for black dalit people. But the one thing it does not say is that the struggle for racial caste justice is over. It ain’t.
(Photo credits: Forbes)
Related Reading: The corruption cases against Mayawati
The cash for votes scam in parliament during the nuclear deal vote
Indian Democracy – is it Shining or is it a sham?
Has caste-based affirmative action worked?
Dalits in India – the BBC has it wrong