Uttar Pradesh is India’s largest state. It gave the country its first three prime ministers, and then four others. The state also sends the highest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha, and holds the key to power at the Centre. For a while now, Uttar Pradesh has also been the principal breeding ground of the kind of politicians whose absence might have benefited the nation as a whole: politicians who are interested only in self-aggrandizement, the likes of whom are difficult to spot even in the neighbouring, and much maligned, state of Bihar. Lalu Prasad was an aberration. Mayavati and Mulayam Singh Yadav appear to be the rule.
Both the chief minister and her bęte noire are under the scanner for acts of alleged financial misdeed. And both have sought to brazenly take advantage of the numerical weakness of the Congress at the Centre to get themselves cleared. First, Mayavati offered her support if the investigating agency was instructed to go off her tracks. She was looking for a quick and full response, but these things cannot be done that way and she chose to distance herself, hoping that the loss of numbers would make the Congress veer around. Waiting in the wings was her predecessor, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who bailed out the United Progressive Alliance ministry in the hope that his problems would be taken care of. Again that did not happen. The former chief minister and his family are almost on the brink. So now, he is seeking friends elsewhere. Neither Mulayam nor Mayavati made any efforts to hide their real intentions when they got close to the ruling party in New Delhi.
Probity in public life keeps on being insisted upon. Yet, in the country’s largest state, the two most important political leaders are facing charges, which, if levelled against a common citizen, would have surely landed him in jail. But in Lucknow, they are unfazed and civil society is keeping mum.
Mayavati is a leader of the impoverished Dalits. Yet, on her birthday, she was seen collecting crores from her admirers — one man refused to fall in line and had to pay with his life. Similarly, Mulayam Singh Yadav had no problems announcing the candidacy of a man who faces charges under the Arms Act, and had earlier been held as a suspected terrorist. His friend, Amar Singh, had the temerity to request the prime minister to intercede on behalf of his industrialist friend in return for his party’s support in the House. It is a shame that such people are close to the centre stage of Indian politics, and even harbour prime ministerial ambitions.
Mayavati, Mulayam, or others like them are not bothered about how the outside world perceives them. In their home turf, it is only caste that matters and as long as a Dalit or a Yadav does not raise his eyebrow, all is hunky-dory. They surely will not ask either behenji or netaji as to how they acquired their vast properties even though the spirit of democracy demands that such questions be asked.
The Congress also played its part in the ongoing murky game. When approached with offers of support on condition, the Congress should have straightaway showed them the door. With Mayavati, the party did not proceed too far because there was no crisis of existence at that moment. With Mulayam, however, it was a different matter. Having survived, the Congress is now seeking to distance itself from such allies, but the damage has already been done. The party has been seen holding a tainted hand.
A new chapter is about to begin in this sordid tale. Kalyan Singh, who had supervised the demolition of the Babri Masjid, has now turned secular, blamed L.K. Advani for all that had happened, and is seeking Mulayam’s help in the coming elections. Uttar Pradesh is truly unique, as Amitabh Bachchan had extolled in the advertisement issued by the Mulayam regime.