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Mayawati the prime ministerial hopeful – can she be compared to Obama?

September 3, 2008

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

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48 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2008 8:34 am

    Sure, if Mayawati becomes PM, our PR machinery will work over-time to put some positive spin on it, just like you did. BUT, the bottomline will be decided by party politics and what Mayawati herself believes in!

    The difference between Mayawati and Obama; Obama is here in the US, where people have a certain minimum standard that they expect. There is a limit to how much he can screw the country with bad policies… In India, no such luck.

    But then perhaps I am too jaded to see clearly.

    Hmm, you think I put a positive spin on it? Well,maybe I did. Just trying to see how things are as they are. – nita.

  2. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 3, 2008 8:52 am

    DD:

    //There is a limit to how much he can screw the country with bad policies//

    REALLY!!! Even after 2 X Bush-II you believe that???

  3. chirax permalink
    September 3, 2008 9:26 am

    “If she becomes the PM of India, I will leave my country. Till she resigns :), my sathy-agrah ”
    Joke Apart.

    People, look around we are no more a Democracy,
    government is run by a Gandhi family as a Public Ltd company with no profits to shareholder. People like Mayawati, Shibu Naren, et.al, are just the pawns in the bigger game.

    Education should be the focus if we want our India back, would you expect Ms. Mayawati to propagate the need of education when she herself has been beneficiary of an uneducated and uninformed mass who elect her? Anyways I guess chalta hai, India

    actually mayawati to me is an unknown factor. one thing for sure though. She is autocrat and those personalities are never good for democracy. remember indira gandhi? – nita.

  4. ulag permalink
    September 3, 2008 9:37 am

    A good post Nita! That rephrasing of that article into an Indian context made for a refreshing read. I had read Jug Suraiya’s article a few days back and was planning to write to ToI as to how childish it was to compare Barack Obama and Mayawati. True, both are from oppressed sections of society and have had a rise to the top against all odds. But the similarities end there.

    While Barack Obama rose to the top with honesty and purely on the basis of his hard work; Mayawatis rise is clouded by her politics of opportunism, corruption and vote-bank policies(which is sadly true of any other politician in India too). While Barack Obama is scholarly and erudite on national and international matters(remember his epitaph on Sam Maeckshaws death?), Mayawati has shown little enthusiasm or inclination on matters outside of Uttar Pradesh. She doesnt have a pan-Indian support, though that dint stop Deve Gowda from becoming Prime Minister. If she has to come to power at the center it can happen only with a strong showing of the Left, TDP and other such regional parties. She hasnt cobbled together this coalition, rather they came to her to have a strong anti-congress nucleus, after the vaccuum left behind due to Mulayam’s exit from the UNPA. Obama on the other hand has a pan-american appeal not to mention his universal popularity. Obama stands for change of the present kind of politics in the US. Hes virtually an outsider and hence is expected to bring about a difference in the ways things are run there. With Mayawati i dont think anyone expects a new breed of politics.

    One has to give her credit though for her unprecedented success in UP. Her political cunning is to be lauded for rewriting caste-equations by pulling in brahmins along with her. She is also one of the few politicians who has said that she favours economics-based reservations for the poor rather than caste-based reservations. But to compare her with Obama would be premature. She still has a long way to go for that.

    thanks Ulag. I too think that Mayawati has great political cunning. I didn’t know she has said that she favours economic based reservations. Thats clever on her part, she probably realises that her votes lie with the masses…she is full of surprises. – nita.

  5. September 3, 2008 10:01 am

    @ Vivek:

    I was expecting someone to say that. Yes, I do mean in spite of all that Bush has done. The bottom line is the average american citizen has a job, a home and the bare necessities. Yes, the “big problem” of present day USA is universal health care, a slow economy and rising unemployment. In spite of all this, they still get social security and so they don’t quite have to get a begging bowl just yet.

    I guess what I am trying to say, is that their life is “hard” by their standards. But by what we are used to in India, this is paradise!

    Of course, I might be over-simplifying based on my exposure to urban US life. But I can’t help but think that they are better off than “we” are.

  6. September 3, 2008 10:18 am

    lol :P i think i will take lalu :P to her…..

    i prefer mayawati anyday. she is not a hypocrite like lalu is. – nita.

  7. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 3, 2008 10:20 am

    Ulag,

    //She doesn’t have a pan-Indian support…//

    I wish I could agree with you (nothing to do with her being a Dalit. Just with her being from the cow-belt), but unfortunately it is not true.

    In fact Mayawati is the first truly all-India Dalit leader after Ambedkar. And Ambedkar was not really a “politician” in the sense we understand the term today. He, like Gandhi, was a leader whom we (and I include you and me in that) feel more comfortable placing on a pedestal than on the same plane as ouselves.

    About Babu Jagjivan Ram, the less said the better in this regard.

  8. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 3, 2008 10:31 am

    DD,

    //…based on my exposure to urban US life…//

    Having never visited, let alone lived in, the US, I am not qualified to engage you in debate on your observation. But I do think that, based on the little serious reading I have done, and the exposure I have had to (white American, admittedly left-leaning) social scientists or even thinking ordinary Americans, your comparison has to be between the several low-income, racially “different” ghettos within urban North American society, not so much between urban and rural (which you seem to imply).

  9. September 3, 2008 10:44 am

    @ Nita:

    The view from the investor community here is that this is a real possibility and the search for possible implications for India’s liberalisation policies is already on.

    That foreign investors are in India only for profits and that it will do nothing for the poor is a deeply-held idea – and encouraged even by politicians such as P Chidambaram – when the reality is that current legislative limitations prevent any foreign firm from doing anything towards the MDGs and social imperatives in India. For instance, in principle, the government wants foreign banks to extend rural banking services, but in reality only 1 or 2 branch opening licences are granted per year to a foreign bank. If that. Which is how after years of operating in India, banks like StanChart etc have fewer than 100 branches. This faux protectionism does not help anyone esp the poorest. But to keep the ‘dalit’ voter in control is in all politicians’ interests, including Mayawati’s. To educate and free him/ her would change Indian politics considerably, in ways that may not be widely popular amongst politicians.

    This anti-investment rhetoric will only gain ground once this symbolic victory is ‘complete’.

    Perhaps the Indian electorate needs to learn scenario planning and start thinking about the implications of Mayawati’s ascent to the ‘throne’ for the growth projections for Incredible India, when they are already being lowered in recent discussions!

    food for thought shefaly! however these politicians change according to the flavour of the moment so i wonder where mayawati will lean if she ever gets the power.- nita.

  10. September 3, 2008 10:50 am

    @ Nita:

    On that Obama point, I think she is comparable. Both have risen to the top of their respective countries’ politics by playing the game as it is played in those countries – he on rhetoric and the white man’s fear of being called racist over any and every criticism, however valid, of a black man; she on corruption and nepotism. The common point is that both have exploited societal fault lines, and even though they weren’t suffering how the ordinary folk have, they are generally seen as the Messiahs of their respective, ‘downtrodden’ brotherhoods.

    yes, that’s true, mayawati is seen as a messiah of sorts and all her faults are forgiven. – nita.

  11. September 3, 2008 12:45 pm

    Mayawati as a prime minister? This is a joke surely. I am sure the BJP and the Congress would work overtime to make sure that never happens. On a personal level who becomes the prime minister in a parliamentary system is not the choice of the people but the choice of the house of parliament. If Mayawati were to become the prime minister it would be a new low for this country and her caste has nothing to do with it. We have had a lower caste president without any problems. Just because someone can push some bureaucrats around does not make them a better administrator.

    true, the bjp and the congress could even come together to stop it! seems like mad idea now, but you never know. desperate games are played.

  12. September 3, 2008 12:47 pm

    Oh and yes I agree with Vishesh I would rather see Laloo as the PM than her if it came to that…

  13. September 3, 2008 1:04 pm

    Nice post… raises several questions further…
    Does Indian Politics/Politicians match up to US Politics/Politicians? Does the way India provides the prestigious “reservation” policy hold in any other country? Is there such a thing as “enough” when it comes to catching up with decades of deprivation of opportunities? Does the world wait for African American Presidents or Dalit PMs to do justice to the downtrodden? Will making one of them a President and PM absolve the favored classes of all past privileges? How many centuries do we have to divide ourselves on the basis of color, race and creed, even while we marry into each other and our offsprings bear a new color. How many generations at least?

    thanks mavin. lots of questions you raised there, and all that we need to ponder on! I personally feel that once a “downtrodden” like Obama or Mayawati is in power, they tend to look at the interests of the whole country because they know that if they don’t, they could give rise to a lot of internal unrest. In India at least, we are such a hotpot of different cultures, castes and races and we have this culture of mob violence…any PM will have to delicately balance it all. Otherwise the govt. won’t survive. well, that’s what I think, as a layman. – nita.

  14. September 3, 2008 1:52 pm

    Nice post, Nita, particularly the rephrasing. Yes Mayawati is fast emerging as a future Prime Minister. No matter what anyone might say, it is a cause for celebration. Discrimination against blacks is a recent phenomenon – only a few centuries old – and is dying out as the rules of engagement have changed.

    In India, the treatment of dalits as sub humans has been going on for thousands of years and is deeply ingrained in the society. Guys in cities will probably never understand how bad it is and what Mayawati’s rise has done and will do.

    Mayawati may not be honest like Obama. Perhaps she is shrugging off the debilitating deprivation that has plagued dalits forever. But she is a leader, a fighter and a person who can get things done.

    Some of you may want to read my posts related to her. Links to only three of them are given below.

    http://vinodksharma.blogspot.com/2007/08/mayawati-and-dalit-power.html

    http://vinodksharma.blogspot.com/2008/06/looking-for-indias-obama-in-harvad.html

    http://vinodksharma.blogspot.com/2008/07/maya-chal-advani-lal-sonia-behal.html

    thanks vinod. – nita.

  15. September 3, 2008 2:01 pm

    @DD: //”But by what we are used to in India, this is a paradise”//

    If you feel that getting social security for all people in US, was reason enough to make this comment, animals in a zoo are better off than you guys as far as the basic “social security” is concerned – what do you think?

    Destination Infinity

  16. hoku permalink
    September 3, 2008 2:06 pm

    I am really amused to see the knee jerk reaction of the members of Indian higher cast to the probable scenario
    of Ms. Mayawati as our PM. The pretext or the argument may vary, but the underlying notion remains same,
    ‘how we can be ruled by a dalit’.
    All arguments of ‘erudite’, ‘principled’ etc never came up when
    Mr. Gowda/Charna Sigh/Chandrashekhar were selected as PM. Corruption is not an issue when trust votes are won by scrupulous means.
    For that matter what extra an ordinary Indian gets when an extraordinary erudite person takes the seat?
    Two other issues I am expecting to be raised by the antagonists are of foreign investment and reform (a glorified name of crony capitalization).

    Comparison with Obama does not stand. Because
    1. Obama has support of Democratic Party. Members of whom would vote from him, whether they support him or
    Ms. Clinton or some one else. The BSP party hast been built from scratch by her and she is also the person
    behind its unprecedented success at UP and at other parts.
    2. Social and economic discrimination is not that pronounce in USA (at least on the surface).
    3. US president has much less role to play in domestic policies.So effect of her being elected as PM would be profound.
    4. Our political landscape is much more complex and diverse.
    5. In a parliamentary democracy, getting support of the maximum MPs is much more difficult.
    6. Adversaries faced by her being a Dalit and a Woman is much more that what Mr. Obama has faced.

    Nita@ “The middle class (at best 250-300m) can rave and rant
    but they are well and truly outnumbered. ”
    So you are assuming there is no lowercast middle class.

    Shefaly@ how corruption gets you vote?? . After all she has won highest number of seats at UP in recent election.
    Do you think even if allowed Stan Chart is going to open a branch at Jhumritalaia? (Tell me how many of those 100 branches are at rural sector? What % of there advances are in priority sectors?)

    Hoku, I have not said anywhere that I mean high caste middle class, in fact categorising middle classes into castes is revolting to me. – nita.

  17. chirax permalink
    September 3, 2008 3:20 pm

    @hoku you make a good point here, though

    //‘how we can be ruled by a dalit’.
    This is not the point of the argument.

    //The BSP party hast been built from scratch by her and she is also the person behind its unprecedented success at UP and at other parts.

    Your facts are misplaced here. After meeting Kanshi Ram in 1977, she gradually came under his patronage, and was part of his core team when he founded the BSP in 1984. : Wikipedia this

    //So effect of her being elected as PM would be profound.

    Profound for whom? She will again try and divide the community on the Bases of religion and Class. Some more useless reservations and divisions of India.

    //Our political landscape is much more complex and diverse.
    She pays 26 crore rupees as Taxes each year( Highest income tax payer among all politician). This implies that she’s not short of Money or Influence. Our politics won’t get more complex than the amount of money in your pocket. Anyways she is treated like a Demi God in the suburbs.

    Just my $0.02

  18. hoku permalink
    September 3, 2008 3:25 pm

    So you believe that cast discrimination does not exist in middle class. I have not seen too many inter caste marriages even in urban middle class.

    ” I have not said anywhere that I mean high caste middle class, in fact categorising middle classes into castes is revolting to me. – nita.”
    Do you mean that, lower classes should only be subject to cast categorisation?

    no no, i just don’t think in terms of caste, sorry. I find it difficult. I do see people as poor or rich, or middle class or elite or educated and uneducated. I feel educated people, whatever their caste will not prefer mayawati, but then I am politically naive I guess. – nita.

  19. hoku permalink
    September 3, 2008 3:45 pm

    chirax @
    //‘how we can be ruled by a dalit’.
    This is not the point of the argument
    In my opinion this is the underlying reason in most of the cases. In fact I wont be surprised,
    if main stream parties come together to stop her.

    //The BSP party hast been built from scratch by her and she is also the person behind its unprecedented success at UP and at other parts.

    Your facts are misplaced here. After meeting Kanshi Ram in 1977, she gradually came under his patronage, and was part of his core team when he founded the BSP in 1984. : Wikipediathis

    No denying role of Mr. Kansi Ram as an ideologue. But check the vote share of BSP since she is in the forefront.

    //So effect of her being elected as PM would be profound.

    Profound for whom? She will again try and divide the community on the Bases of religion and Class. Some more useless reservations and divisions of India.

    Profound for everyone including you and me. Do you think cast, religion division (refer to Shabana Azmi’s case) does not exists in our country? Go to any village and you can see it. Reservation or no reservation it exists for eternity in India
    So if a few boys and girls get reservation in academic institutions what way it divides our country further? (government jobs are few and far between, so reservation does not have any meaning for employment)
    //Our political landscape is much more complex and diverse.
    She pays 26 crore rupees as Taxes each year( Highest income tax payer among all politician). This implies that she’s not short of Money or Influence. Our politics won’t get more complex than the amount of money in your pocket. Anyways she is treated like a Demi God in the suburbs.
    First of all I don’t think there is any shortage of money power among mainstream parties. Don’t worry, during election time, highest tax payers from Industry would bat for them. Top of it, if only money could win an election, Congress or BJP would never been defeated in any election.

  20. hoku permalink
    September 3, 2008 3:54 pm

    no no, i just don’t think in terms of caste, sorry. I find it difficult. I do see people as poor or rich, or middle class or elite or educated and uneducated. I feel educated people, whatever their caste will not prefer mayawati, but then I am politically naive I guess. – nita.
    I would be the happiest person the day it would happen. I could not resist myself asking – why do you think educated people won’t vote for Ms. Mawati? (BTW, I don’t belong to lower cast and perhaps mildly educated too, but I won’t hesitate to vote for her and find no reason to vote for others)

    simply because I feel that education is important and believe that there should be a minimum qualification for entrance into politics. this doesn’t mean that education is the magic wand, not at all, it is just the minimum, for an important job like politics. But 8 out of 10 educated candidates may not be worthy, but we choose from the two who are. This is just my own opinion, and I assume that other educated people share it too. Even though Mayawati has qualifications, I feel she is not worthy because of her corruption allegations. I thought this was clear in my post. For me qualities like honesty and integrity are very important, and I guess I believe educated people feel this way, but again naive of me I guess. You see an educated person might realise that it is not in his/her best interest to have a corrupt politician at the helm. – nita.

  21. September 3, 2008 4:04 pm

    i am scared for India when she will be reigned by people like mayawati!! :( Really, i am so emotionally shook witht he whole issue, it is better i don’t really comment further on this! :( But i sincerely feel, India can have a much better PM!!! We deserve better!

    Absolutely Sakhi. I agree. We do deserve better, even the poor do. – nita.

  22. hoku permalink
    September 3, 2008 4:10 pm

    simply because I feel that education is important and believe that there should be a minimum qualification for entrance into politics. this doesn’t mean that education is the magic wand, not at all, it is just the minimum, for an important job like politics. Maybe 8 out of 10 educated candidates may not be worthy, but we choose from the two who are. This is just my own opinion, and I assume that other educated people share it too. – nita.

    In my opinion,education can be a necessary condition, but it can’t be the sufficient condition in politics. For me policies and ideological disposition of the parties/candidates are much more important. (BTW, Ms. Mayawti is well educated.”She graduated from Kalindi College in Delhi and holds a Bachelor of Law degree.She also holds a Bachelor of Education degree and was a teacher in Delhi (Inderpuri JJ Colony) until joining full time politics in 1984.[wikipedia]) Sorry for hogging so much of space.

    sorry hoku, I had by mistake deleted those last few lines of my reply to you …I know she is educated. I had done research on her before I wrote this post, but by mistake deleted those lines (while putting the reply into italics) before saving my reply!- nita.

  23. September 3, 2008 4:24 pm

    Choosing a leader is choosing the lesser evil. It is extremely difficult to judge who is the lesser evil.
    Another problem is what I should call “reverse casteism”.
    Every person had an identity- a tag line or a brand, sometimes in the form of an ideology they endorse.
    It is especially necessary for a politician.
    You know, one is pro-dalit, or pro-women, or pro-animal rights, or pro-progress, or pro-traditionalism and hindutva, etc.
    The person whose brand identity is based on caste or religion (pro-dalit or pro-hindutva), the moment they come into power, their supporters/ party people/etc all try to push their own community people for many kinds of benefits, many of them wrongly too.
    I am afraid of that, because I have seen it in many organizations at a smaller scale than a whole country of course.
    (Reverse racism: more often than not, reverse racism is in the form of giving special benefits or opportunities to people who belong to a group which has been under privileged in the past. In effect, you are essentially committing a racist act by giving preference to one person over another because of their race, religion, or ethnicity, rather than their personal merit, skills, or knowledge.)

  24. September 3, 2008 6:20 pm

    At the risk of repeating certain points already made here ;)

    I do not think it is, in any way, fair to compare the political careers of two individuals from countries with political systems as diverse as the US and India. It is true that Barack Obama and Mayawati have emerged from specific backgrounds but a comparison is more a sign of the fascination for spontaneous generalizations that has gripped the media and its consumers(all of us included) over the years. Barack Obama’s rise has been a dream come true for this trend as he has become a lodestone for measuring the qualifications of politicians including those who have been on the national scenario longer than he has.

    That said, I do not think Mayawati as a Prime Minister would be such a bad option. No one can become the PM of India without making certain adjustments and compromises. The “middle-class” ‘ fear of Mayawati primarily stems from the early potrayals of her as someone who would agitate for militant change, who would cause mass “upheaval” and “chaos” because of her very pronounced Dalit “tilt”. However her victory in the prvious poll in UP was achieved after a considerable moderation of tone and the vooing of upper-caste backgrounds. So as far as the “middle class” is concerned, she should hardly be any better or worse than any other pol.

    But the fear still persists, garbed in the veneer of an abhorrence of corruption and corrupt figures. One wonders why!

    interesting analysis prashant. I for one wonder why people insist (Hoku also said something similar) that the real reason that the middle-class doesn’t like her is because of her caste. I find this assumption strange, and I think it reflects more on how the person percieves her that anything else. For example, a person who would vote for her on the basis of caste, would assume that someone would reject her on the basis of caste. that is my analysis! :) – nita.

  25. chirax permalink
    September 3, 2008 7:37 pm

    Hoku we should agree to disagree, for this time, else Nita will throw us out of the discussion :)

  26. September 3, 2008 7:48 pm

    Th title itself makes me laugh,.,,
    well , about she becoming the PM ..i dont doubt it..
    when an accused can be a Cm then she surely can become our PM ..
    Our country knows very well how to screw the word democracy and consititution

    that’s is what happens at first…disbelief! :) But soon, it won’t be so funny! :) – nita.

  27. September 3, 2008 8:01 pm

    good effort. interesting rewrite of the last article. :)

    however, i fail to see how mayawati’s credentials can be compared to those of obama except that both of them are not a part of the tradition political mainstream cuz of their caste and skin color respectively.

    she is corrupt beyond means whereas obama has a clean record and is a man of character which he shows over and over and over again. i don’t feel the two names should even be written in the same sentence … let alone be compared.

    but i see the angle you’re coming from …. the whole casteism and racism being nullified if these two were to be in power. (i don’t think castism or racism will go anywhere but that’s a different story) …. i see your point … and i appreciate the manner you made it …. but something just doesn’t compute … and that is the comparison of the two.

    thanks for your thoughts Roop. I agree that as people, Obama and Mayawati couldn’t be more different. – nita.

  28. September 3, 2008 9:00 pm

    Thinking about kids in school

    Teacher: Who is the prime minister of India?
    Student: Mayawati.

    somehow it just does not sounds good to my ears…may be I am partial about her candidacy and I do not think she qualifies for the post.( I am not talking about the eligibilty criteria in our constitution.)

    when one keeps hearing something again and again, it starts to sound okay. Right now for all of us, mayawati as PM is something of a shocker. – nita.

  29. September 3, 2008 9:12 pm

    I don’t believe Obama – Mayawati comparison is correct. US and India has different ways of electing their Top person even though they are democracy. Obama had to fight off Clinton to become the candidate. Mayawati will use politics, coalition, majority, vote bank all that non sense to become the PM.

    Yes they are very different persons, as individuals and work in very different political systems. – nita.

  30. lallopallo permalink
    September 3, 2008 10:25 pm

    Oh that was pretty creative what you did with the article. And, yes, no matter how much we laugh over her chances of becoming India’s PM, the dreadful truth is that it’s a very much a possibility, given her large vote bank , her manouvering capabilities and the Indian political system.
    As for her comparison with Obama, I think there is nothing left to add after many comments here, though I agree with Ulag’s comment ( comment no 4)

    Thanks Lallopallo. We in India need to be prepared because we have no control over it. – nita.

  31. raghav permalink
    September 3, 2008 11:29 pm

    The point is if she is capable of runnning India and has the support of major party she could become the PM. But for the mere reason she comes from a so called low caste and it would be a grt. eg. for the rest of the democratic world, sorry im not so liberal.

    that is what frightens me. People voting for her because of her caste, not her capability of running a country. anyone who has a doubt as to whether they are voting for her because of her caste should simply imagine her as not of that caste…would they still vote for her? If they wouldn’t then they shouldn’t. – nita.

  32. September 3, 2008 11:42 pm

    I will leave India and settle abroad if that happens. Don’t laugh!!! I am serious. :|

    I know what you mean. But you could join politics. I’m serious too! – nita.

  33. September 4, 2008 12:28 am

    @nita
    I see your point but I posit that the issue is not of Mayawati’s caste itself but whether/how she chooses to present it as an issue. The “middle class” as such may not have many issues with politicians belonging to a lower caste. R.K.Narayan, for instance became the President and all. However very few politicians made caste and issue as powerfully as Kanshi Ram and Mayawati did and made it a weapon, a slogan for mass mobilization, and to the “middle class”, a possible catalyst for mass anarchy. We have, from the very early years of Mayawati’s political rule, been told of her megalomania, her penchant for mass transfers, her unpredictability etc. All of these echo the fear I talked about.

    At the risk of increasing my consumption of comment space, let me add that what I mentioned above is one major difference between Obama and Mayawati. He has continously sought to not let race define his campaign. She, on the other hand, has defined her political self through the prism of her being a dalit. Chalk and Cheese.

    There! Even I fell into the trap I was warning eveyone against . :(

    okay, now your comment seems reasonable! :) – nita.

  34. September 4, 2008 3:25 am

    Off late, i was thinking to write a blog on how indian politics should be. Let me put some of my thoughts here.

    Q) Can Mayawati become Prime Minister?
    Ans) May be. Purely because of the nature of our coalition culture.

    Q) Can we stop her from becoming PM?
    Ans) Nope. Not even, if we take pains to go and vote. This is again because of coalition nature of politics. BSP will continue to hold set number of MPs and her party will continue to nluence national politics.
    BSP takes upper seat in Third front here onwards because TDP (Chandra Babu Nadu) is going to loose its share in Andhra politics.

    Q) Should corruption charges pending against Mayawati create a heart burn in us?
    Ans) No. Otherwise, our heart will continue to bleed. I am even recommending that we should ignore corruption charges against our politicians and move on.

    Q)Then what should be our line of thinking in national politics?
    Ans) BSP, TDP, Shiv Sena, MNS, CPI-M, TRS, JDS and several other small and regional parties command a sizeable population belonging to different regions, religions, castes etc.
    To some extent, its good that these parties continue to hold onto these people where our national level parties and leaders have either ignored or unable to reach them. Let these parties continue to consolidate their hold on these sections of the societies and expect that our national political parties rise or a new national political party emerge which can convince these local parties to think nationally to solve local/regional problems. We need national level leaders to market the idea of oneness and present the policies which can implemented nationally and show them that they can trickle down to different regions and societies if implemented correctly.

    Its time that national parties realize the importance of regional parties and cooperate with local leaders in forging oneness. This is the only best possible way to unite our country.

    Let us forgive the corruption charges of all these leaders and forge a national/local party alliances with a plan. As long as these local parties try to assert their individual identity, there is no hope. United Fronts, Third Fronts etc have been failing only because of retaining the independent identity of each party.

    To save this country, we should let small/local parties coalasce into one party and fight the elections, but we need national level leaders to run that party.

    Best regards
    sri

    thanks sri for the suggestions. :) – nita.

  35. September 4, 2008 3:28 am

    Nita, corrupt as Mayawati is, she does not have a few of the other bad points that many of the other politicians have. She does not viciously attack the minorities without any justification, never incites communal tensions and does have a platform (atleast theoretically) that appeals to many Indians. And if she did make money from corruption, atleast she paid all the taxes on that ;) Did you know Obama has a private beach in Hawaii ?

    About your quotation of the article from root.com, Nita, the truth is that the middle classes HAVE forgotten about the dalits. The evidence for this is the vigorous anti-reservation protests they made, did you ever hear them protesting atrocities against the Dalits ? And how do we know that Mayawati is a bad administrator ? Lets give her five years in UP and lets see what the data on health, education looks after that, only then can we judge that aspect. And arent many of these ‘English speaking honest’ politicians as corrupt and inefficient as Mayawati ?

    The truth is that Mayawati is a far more inspiring human story than Obama will ever be. Obama, as ‘black’ as he is was born into a relatively affluent family into one of the richest, most egalitarian nations in the world, where political parties are far more democratic than in India. Mayawati, is the daughter of a clerk belonging to possibly the most oppressed ethnic group in the history of mankind. She rose, without any political connections in a country notorious for its suppression of women and autocratic democratic parties.

    Sorry, but the question should be can Obama be compared to Mayawati?

    Well, for me personally corruption is a big issue. Maybe I am wrong and it is not a big issue for other educated middle class people, but for me it is. For me it comes above everything else. In my view corrupt people are anti-national. All corrupt people and I don’t care what their caste is, what their language is. If people want to say I don’t like mayawati because of her caste despite me saying that is not the case, then it shows their bias and prejudice, and it is not my problem. about mayawati’s story being more inspiring, yes perhaps it is as I am not that aware of the details of obama’s life. – nita.

  36. September 4, 2008 3:34 am

    Sorry, I meant to say And arent many of these ‘English speaking honest’ politicians as corrupt and inefficient as Mayawati supposedly is ?

    I don’t quite understand why you are dividing politicians into “english speaking” and not ‘english speaking” I don’t categorise politicians that way at all and have never made such divisions. I don’t even have such divisions amongst my friends and aquaintances. I see human beings are corrupt or not corrupt and Manmohan singh is not corrupt. Not because he is engish speaking, but because he is manmohan singh. vajpayee is not corrupt, not because he is hindi speaking, but because he is vajpayee. – nita.

  37. September 4, 2008 9:46 am

    Certainly we deserve a better prime minister, and we have always had wonderful prime ministers (barring a couple of exceptions)

    What i dont like about Mayawati and her politics , is opportunism..she has made political alliances with Mulayam, BJP and congress all..she has no principle..Now with SP leaving third front, she saw the opportuinity and joined third front..yes Most of politicians are opportunists but she is many levels ahead of them

    If at all she has some good points, is that she is a very tough administrator, and is surrounded by some very good and capable people and some of the best beaurocrats India has ever produced like Shashank Shekhar Singh

    Vivek, you are right that she is an opportunist, and a person who is an opportunist ka baap! :) – nita.

  38. raghav permalink
    September 4, 2008 10:01 am

    The thing is, i am all for dalits or other supressed groups (e.g. gujjars of Rajasthan) and that they should have greater (both quantitative and qualitative) representation in the parliament.
    But get the popular, honest, politically qualified university churned out bright people from those communities. Guess, easier said than done.

    Sometimes i wonder, why do students graduating in political science or similar courses do not join politics even with its known dirty nature.

    Anyways, Rahul Gandhi from the political business house Gandhi parivar pvt. ltd. looks a probable option if Congress were to come to power again. But i dn’t no if he is interested to lead the country. Anyhow, i don’t want Advani.
    May be Modi if i just take into consideration the development under him in Gujrat. But i guess it will be a disaster for secularism putting up a murderer on the top chair.

    I guess they don’t join because it is tough to survive the politics of India if one is clean. At first I thought exactly like you, but then I realised that one needs a certain ruthlessness. At first even I used to say that good, educated people should join (in fact even I had a certain penchant for it for a few months of my life!) but once I saw the reality I know it’s very very tough. One needs a mentor, that is one thing. Secondly, one needs to have a certain personality for it. Some people still make it, but I think a mentor is important. And I don’t want Advani either! Nor Modi. – nita.

  39. September 4, 2008 10:04 am

    Nita, the truth is that corruption is nothing new to India. We have been the most corrupt society on earth for millinea, systematically oppressing our own ppl in the most tyrannical ways. As ‘clean and corruption free’ the British occupation might have been, it left us with a 9 % literacy rate and 28 yrs life expectancy. Your own definition of corruption might have little to do with that of a Dalit’s. Why should he/she elect a candidate that will probably ignore his demands for land redistribution, over some other one who is more focused on some other perhaps even legitimate grievance of yours ? Especially since no one else seems to stand up for him/her.

    If you talk of suppression and hierarchies, yes we have been that way. However I don’t see that being corruption-free will necessarily mean a bad administration. The British left us corruption free but they left us poor because they exploited us, so I am not sure why you have compared the two things. Also as to how a Dalit thinks, you are right ofcourse, Dalits will believe that only Mayawati can ensure the end of their suppression. I am not so sure about that though. People change once they come into power and I am quite sure Mayawati will change if she ever does, her history shows it. An honest and fair politician on the other hand, (I don’t know who so don’t ask me that!) will see the demands of all groups and act accordingly, balancing all things. – Nita.

  40. hoku permalink
    September 4, 2008 10:23 am

    Sorry for writing again.
    Lets think for a while, there is no corruption charges against her. In that case would you people would accept her as PM. I am sure the answer would be nope.
    Why we are looking for an educated, clean, smart PM and not much bothered about the policy and program. The reason could be, we want some one like US to be the PM, and we are not much bothered about the policy because we don’t need government support for our survival. Its better for us to reduce role of government.
    Now what is wrong, if a dalit wants to see some one like THEM as PM. They know very well that no one is going do any thing for them, so at least send some one who is like US by caste. It’s a sense of empowerment. Its a sweet revenge against hundreds of years of exploitation.

    This is for some of the friends, who are repeatedly using the term votebank. Please dont insult the wisdom of crores of voters, who stand in ques under scorching sun to vote for a candidate of their choice. Why don’t you label voters who traditionally vote for Congress ,BJP or Shiv Shena or any one else. Why we always think that our judgments are the perfect one, and those faceless crowd cant even think. Sorry! its the perfect fault line between India and Bharat.

    Hoku, you have this penchant for thinking for others. Instead of asking, you provide the answers! So what can one say? :)
    By the way, about “sweet revenge” if we go by that theory, then let’s destroy babri masjid as well, let every community or person take revenge for all historical wrongs, let the Sikhs have their Khalistan, let the north-east kill the “outsiders” and let’s just forget about India! It’s really sad when people talk of revenge. – Nita.

  41. September 4, 2008 12:32 pm

    I can’t compare Obama with Mayawati, I don’t know enough about him. Mayawati is a shrewd politician and she is untouchable to nobody. All the political parties except the SP are ready to be with her. In fact after the Congress- SP marriage even that is not ruled out. She is a strong woman and has no ideology so can blend with any party which is essential in this era of coalition politics. I remember about a decade ago I heard her addressing a public rally. I was watching her on TV. She proudly declared her caste and made it clear that she was proud of being a scheduled Caste. I thought it was symbolic of a revolution in caste based politics. Yadavs had been an experts in exploiting the caste based politics of North India before that.
    As far as her being corrupt is concerned, they are all alike.If God forbid she becomes the Prime Minister initially she might be an embarrassment because of her arrogance and lack of sophistication but in the long run I don’t think it is going to make a difference. The bureaucrats are running the country now and they are going to run it in the future.

    True,Mayawati is a smart cookie! I also agree that she has no idealogy except her own idology! She is apparently building huge statues of herself in UP. Yes, God forbid. We will have statues of her in every city of India! :) – nita.

  42. September 4, 2008 5:52 pm

    Quoting Hoku:
    “Its a sweet revenge against hundreds of years of exploitation.”

    So it is all about revenge? And here I thought it was because they didn’t have equal opportunity… Well, I guess we deserve it (sarcasm).

  43. September 5, 2008 9:47 am

    Nita, my statement about the British was sarcastic, if their administration was so corruption-free why were only 1/10 Indians literate, and why was the life expectancy all of 28 yrs ?

    Isnt an administration that cares little about education for its broad populace and its health totally corrupt ?

    Now most of the urban elite will say that they also ‘care’ abt these issues, but the moment the gov. comes up with a scheme to improve the lot of the poor, they will shout corruption. But if the gov. plans to build a new airport the only thing they will complain about will be the time it takes them to get there. :)

    I wrote about the Dalit movement in India sometime back,
    http://vikramvgarg.wordpress.com/2008/08/18/how-do-the-dalits-see-modern-india/

    I am trying to see your logic, even if it is sarcasm. But you are seeing corruption in a different way, in a broad sense, I am seeing in it’s another meaning, using of a position of trust for dishonest gain. I certainly not talking of corruption as it means in the broad sense. When I say I object to Mayawati, I mean this, her unaccounted for funds, that’s all. And about the British being “corruption-free” even in my definition, frankly I don’t know. Also, even if you use corruption in the broad sense, and they were corruption-free, why do you feel that the British thought of India as “its” populace? They served their Queen, not India. I have a post on British Rule on on my blog, and it, alongwith the comments, can be an interesting read.
    Also your second para, I don’t agree with. There is corruption in all levels of the government, whether it is to buy an aeroplane, buy weapons, build a mall, build a highway, or a scheme for the poor. And it is the former things that the media shouts about the most. It is all over the papers, it’s in the sting operations. In fact I feel that corruption in schemes for the poor is talked about far less, maybe because there are few such schemes! Vikram, if you lived in India, you would see it in the papers. – nita.

  44. September 5, 2008 11:26 am

    Ouch. :(

  45. Ajay permalink
    November 6, 2008 4:42 pm

    All said in a balanced manner. But there is by no means to compare Mr. President, Barack Obama to one our best corrupt, illiterate politician,

    Mayawati. Or in any case no comparison can be made just based on caste or religion. Do you think people voted him, just because he was coloured.

    No, because he has a vision to change the whole country, the country be supreme and wealthy. Its the background he has, the education, the jobs he
    did before being a presedential candidate, which has encourgaed the people of America to elect him. He believes in people’s country and he is not there just to make profit for the black.

    In contrast Mayawati’s background does not suggest any hint of her being an able politician even as a chief minister. Having power, she has used it to avenge her opponents and be rich. what qualities you see in her as candidate for Prime Minister. Just for the sake of comparison based on caste or religion has nothing to do with our country’s leadership. Just see some of her speeches made and you will know her IQ level.

    There has been several alikes of Barack Obama in India. If anyone can be compared is Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. And there will be many more BOs in India
    if one is capable and not just because he/she is from minority community.

    Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached and the Goal is to clean my country.

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  1. India 2.01 » Archives » Mayawati: The Next Prime Minister of India?
  2. Mayawati, Obama and the political elite ! – POV
  3. Mayawati and Obama at Blogbharti

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