'Behenji', a political biography of Mayawati

New Delhi, May 26: Mayawati has changed the face of
politics in the country, turning old assumptions upside down.
Written off politically before she stormed to power in India`s
most populous state, Mayawati, perhaps is the most enigmatic
Indian politician for decades, says a new book.

Experts and politicians in fact took long time to realise
the potential of the Mayawati juggernaut, says journalist Ajay
Bose in "Behenji, a political biography of Mayawati".

While political pundits were busy writing obituaries of
Mayawati`s political career after she lost power to her bitter
rival Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2003, Bose commenced his research
on what he calls the "most intriguing political phenomenon of
the times".

"I started researching for the book after Mayawati`s
third regime collapsed in 2003, now many of the same people
who had then written her off are calling her the most
promising politician and I am being commended for the `timing`
of my book," Bose says.

On what he found most remarkable about the Mayawati
phenomenon, Bose mentions the fact that her party has risen on
the back of mobilization at the grassroot level and not by
gaining advantage of something violent happening in society.

"The most remarkable thing about her ascent is that she
is not riding on any conflagration, in that it doesn`t pose
any threat to our society," Bose says, explaining that earlier
both congress and BJP, have stormed to power as a result of
some major social conflagration in society, the former in 1984
and the latter in 1992.

Her rise, according to Bose is the victory of Indian
democracy as it had given unprecedented political identity to
the most suppressed section of India.

The book follows Mayawati`s political journey, which
began after Dalit leader Kanshi Ram handpicked to lead his
Bahujan Samaj Party. It goes on to summarise the events and
moves that brought her to power in up, not once but thrice.

As a studious Dalit schoolteacher, the primary aim of her
life was to get into the Indian administrative service, the
aspiration she put aside to pursue a career in politics.

"Her decision to quit pursuing IAS was a very risky move.
After all Kanshi Ram had nothing to boast of at the time,
except promises of a successful political future," says Bose.

What also sets her apart from other politicians of the
time is her dogged rejection of the secularism vs communalism
debate, believes the author.

"She has refused to get into this ideological debate.
Many call it crass opportunism but it is at least a
transparent self-centered approach," Bose says of the leader
who has experimented alliances with outfits as ideologically
diverse as the BJP and SP.

It is the child-like faith Dalits have shown in her,
which has given Mayawati space to practice real politic, which
she does, Bose says.

Bose also believes that odds were strong for the up chief
minister to become India`s first Dalit Prime Minister in the
near future.

"Given the fact that both BJP and Congress seem to be on
the decline, while the left front which is the core of the
third front looking vulnerable for the first time, there is a
strong possibility of Mayawati filling in the void," he says.

"But how she will stitch together this phenomenon is
impossible to predict," he says, "she is increasingly becoming
a defining point".

To write the political biography of Mayawati with
complete objectivity, according to Bose was a difficult task.

"The leader whose future trajectory is now being
discussed from upper class drawing rooms to slums, was for
long not accepted as a new leader by writers and commentators,
who continued to focus on her diamonds and parties," he says.

"They also wrote openly surreptitious tales about her
relationship with her mentor Kanshi Ram. Only now they have
stopped trivializing her. As a journalist, it was not
therefore easy to detach from the environment and write
objectively," he adds.

"For a country obsessed with politics, we have a
remarkably poor record of producing political biographies. We
have either hagiographies or pamphlets that single-mindedly
attempt at character assassination. I hope `Behenji` will
secure for the upcoming generations an objective portrait of
the Dalit leader," says noted Sephologist Yogendra Yadav.

Bureau Report