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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2736

Mayawati’s ‘Maya’

By Tukoji R. Pandit - Syndicate Features

In Hindi, the word Maya has many meanings. One of the more recognizable ones is ‘wealth’. Reading about the wealth that the BSP supremo Mayawati is reported to have accumulated over a short period of time it will appear that her parents had given her an apt name. Well, for a former school teacher whose father was a lowly clerk in the government of India to claim assets worth Rs 52 crore (not the market value, mind you) will dazzle most people who are lucky enough to own a modest house and maybe a few ‘luxury’ items like a car and an air-conditioner.

The election time disclosures by our Netas of humble origins have already informed the public that most of them are worth a few crores of rupees. That is on the basis of their declaration which would clearly not match the worth of the actual market value of their immovable properties. One noticeable thing is that when it comes to possessing property and assets both the ruling party and Opposition politicians are at par. Nobody can say that the ‘rules’ of the game of property acquisition are loaded in favour of the ruling party.

Ordinary persons (alleged to be honest) may object that even if there is nothing wrong in our Netas getting rich at lightening speed how is that the Income Tax department turns very generous towards them while making the lives of others less and less ‘Saral’? There is no need to cavil. We can expect these very Netas who become rich overnight to fight for similar changes in the tax laws so that ‘ordinary’ persons can declare all their wealth as obtained from ‘donations’, a testimony to their popularity and, hence, worthy of tax exemption.

Expectedly, the revelation about Mayawati’s wealth, resulting from a mandatory affidavit that has to be filed before contesting election to a state assembly or parliament, raised some hue and cry. The noises from the political class, to no one’s surprise, were muted. Behanji, as Mayawati is known among her fawning supporters, has a ready explanation which sounds like an open challenge to those who suggest that her riches came through the corrupt route.

It is all from ‘donations’ given so spontaneously by my supporters and fans all across the country, she has said in so many words. In the past, these followers of Behanji used to send money to the party. Now they have started sending the money order (or whatever other means they might prefer) ‘to me, thinking I had no money.’ ‘They asked me to utilise it any way I wanted—for constructing a bungalow in Delhi or for investment.’

She must have been receiving a steady torrent of money orders that helped her multiply her wealth 400 percent in a matter of three years. She even has an explanation for what activated her supporters to toss plenty of donations at her. They were upset and worried to see the previous BJP-led NDA government hound her with a ‘false’ case like the multi-billion rupees Taj Corridor scam. Mayawati will need money, plenty of it, to fight her battles, realised the supporters familiar with the devious ways of the ‘Manuvadi’ party. But not knowing what exactly they could do to save her, her supporters decided to flood her with money, the most powerful weapon in India in fighting the administration in pursuit of justice. Hence her shores were hit by a money tsunami.

It was, of course, very generous of her supporters to tell her that she could spend the money in any manner that she liked—and she had no hesitation in utilising it all for personal use. So it was that she came to be owner of a bungalow in New Delhi’s Sardar Patel Marg, a row in Chanakyapuri, Delhi’s tony Diplomatic Enclave, where probably no house will be worth less than Rs 100 crore in real market. Knowing that diamonds are forever, the good Behanji also went on a diamond shopping spree, buying collection worth Rs 52 lakh.

There are people who imagine that they ‘donate’ money to a political leader largely on the understanding that all of it, or at least a major portion of it, will be spent on party activities, not to create or bolster an individual’s assets. But we have it on the authority of some experts, as quoted in some journals that her supporters would actually prefer to see her, in terms of wealth, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Birlas, Tatas and Ambanis. In the snooty world of the super rich you are judged buy not only what is your net worth but also your address.

Clearly, in the eyes of her people there is no case against Mayawati for acquiring wealth disproportionate to her known sources of income. There is no protest against her wealth at grass root level. And in a democracy, it is the people who have an important, if not a decisive, say in such matters. After all, in free India’s history of 60 years how many top politicians have suffered at the hands of their electorate after being accused of becoming rich through dubious means. The law may take a dim view in this matter, but for the ‘corrupt’ politicians the skewed legal system is an important ally. What helps further is the changed political system in which your ‘corrupt’ politician becomes my asset the moment he crosses over from his parent party to the Opposition.

Therefore, it is with some scepticism that one read, just days before the disclosures about Mayawati’s ‘Maya’ that the government plans to introduce in the (delayed) monsoon session of parliament a bill to change the anti-corruption law and formally empower the presiding officers of state assemblies and parliament to grant sanction to prosecute MPs and MLAs on graft charges.

The proposed bill is not going to be a voluntary act; the Supreme Court forced the government to bring changes in the existing anti-corruption law so that it becomes easier to prosecute MPs and MLAs accused of corruption. The bill, whenever it comes, may or may not be a good piece of legislation. But it is very unlikely that it will have a provision that prohibits genuflecting supporters from opening their purse strings to stuff the coffers of their leader.

- Syndicate Features -

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