People’s leader, out of reach
Mayawati scores over her predecessors, Mulayam Singh and Kalyan Singh, in making herself inaccessible
Pradeep Kapoor Lucknow
Ours may be a democracy of, by and for the people, but politicians seem to think otherwise. Else, why would they make such efforts to remain out of reach for the aam admi even while occupying positions of power?
In UP, senior politicians have made themselves inaccessible to the people who voted them to power. The irony is stark, especially at a time when Rahul Gandhi is going out of his way to reach out to the aam admi, spending time with Dalits and sharing meals with them. Instead of emulating him, Gandhi has become a butt of ridicule for his political rivals in the BSP, BJP and SP.
In the past 20 years, UP has been ruled by three politicians - Kalyan Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati. All the three chief ministers share a common trait: they kept themselves out of people's reach. Not only that, even senior ministers, party workers and bureaucrats found it difficult to meet them. Political pundits say their inaccessibility is a major factor contributing to the decline in the fortune of all the three CMs.
Mayawati scores over her predecessors in keeping herself out of bounds. Reason? Nobody knows if it is for security reasons, threat perception or some other factor. But she just does not come out of her official residence. She rarely attends office at the annexe building as most meetings are convened at her residence.
When she does venture out, there is a curfew-like situation on the roads - all movements are blocked. And, believe it or not, the road is washed twice before the CM passes through the road.
Very few ministers in the Mayawati government have access to the CM while others do not even get a chance for a darshan. Party legislators complain they have been trying for two years to tell her about their grievances.
It was only after the poor performance of BSP in the Lok Sabha elections that Mayawati realised that the communication gap between her and the legislators had damaged the party's prospects. During a review meeting after the 2009 general elections, legislators complained that their problems were not attended to by the state's bureaucracy.
For the bureaucracy, too, it's not an easy deal. A principal secretary is not authorised to brief the CM even if any matter of his department is slated to come up for discussion in the cabinet. So, what does he do? The principal secretary of a particular department briefs the secretary in the CM's secretariat who in turn briefs Mayawati.
The concept of a janata durbar has been junked. Earlier, hundreds of people from all across UP would come on designated days to the CM's official residence. They could tell the CM about their problems and submit their petitions before a competent authority. Not anymore.
Mayawati has also remained elusive for the media. She has not given a single interview to any newspaper or magazine. She usually avoids answering questions by mediapersons at press conferences.
Political analysts told Hardnews that this lack of communication between the CM and her ministers, legislators, party workers and common people is harming governance. It is preventing Mayawati from getting the right feedback about the implementation of her policies and welfare programmes. Taking a cue from the CM, her ministers and bureaucrats, too, have made themselves inaccessible.
Mayawati's predecessor, Mulayam Singh, too, had cut himself off from the public. He had shut himself out from the day-to-day running of the state. The show was run by his younger brother and cabinet minister, Shivpal Yadav, and Amar Singh.
This was unlike Mulayam. In his last term as CM, which ended in May 2007, he became inaccessible to his ministers, MPs, MLAs and officers. He avoided meeting people in the janata durbar. All important decisions were taken by Shivpal and Amar Singh while Mulayam remained busy in the company of corporate honchos like Anil Ambani, Adi Godrej, Sahara's Subroto Roy and film stars like Amitabh Bachchan.
In the first few years of his tenure, Mulayam was lobbying to become the prime minister. When he failed and the UPA came to power, his party became irrelevant even with 30 MPs. Since then, he lost interest in governance. Gradually, goons and corruption took over, bringing in total anarchy. This paved the way for the downfall of a leader who once wielded immense power.
Kalyan Singh went to great lengths to stay out of reach even when he was out of power. Whenever anyone called him, his staff would trot out stock replies - he was travelling or in a meeting. Once a senior journalist, disgusted, gate-crashed into his residence. The veteran leader was at home comfortably reading a newspaper. When asked, Kalyan Singh replied unabashedly that he had forgotten to teach his staff more convincing excuses.