The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dalits are supposed to represent an alternative vision of society, a society which will also embody a different and superior system of ethics and values. This assumption is completely belied by the behaviour of Ms Mayavati, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh from the Bahujan Samaj Party. It is clear that she excels in doing exactly what other politicians, drawn from the upper castes, are doing or are in the habit of doing. In 2001, she told her partymen that they should hand over to the party 50 per cent of the constituency allowances they received. The order would have remained a BSP secret, but unfortunately for Ms Mayavati, a member of the Samajwadi Party, with his knife out for her, videotaped the order. Denial has become difficult because the tape is certainly not doctored. Ms Mayavati has brought further disgrace upon herself by admitting that she used money from the UP exchequer to celebrate her birthday. There is also the tale of her having the blessings of the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee — a story that was promptly denied by the prime minister’s office. Obviously, despite alliances and electoral calculations, Mr Vajpayee believes that as the prime minister of India he cannot be seen to be condoning a leader under the shadow of corruption.

It goes without saying that Ms Mayavati does not quite cut an edifying or an exemplary figure. Many would believe that she never has, and that she is only batting true to form. At the present juncture, Ms Mayavati is a source of great embarrassment to her ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party. There have been some attempts to save face: Mr L.K. Advani, the deputy prime minister, refused to present to the Lok Sabha the letter which the UP chief minister had written to him on the videotape. It would be labouring the obvious to make the point that Ms Mayavati’s behaviour and the charges of corruption levelled against her only fortify the impression that Indian politicians are incorrigibly venal. The fog of corruption that now surrounds Ms Mayavati perhaps underlines the tendency that there is nothing called alternative politics and ethics in Indian political life. One politician is as good or as bad as another when there is smell of moolah in the air. Abuse of power and the search for pelf are the full-time occupation of the political class. Exceptions only prove the rule. Ms Mayavati has only shown that she is not the exception but the rule. This will also explain the complete collapse of governance in UP. The state in UP has acquired the form of corruption.

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