Lucknow, May 12: Behave properly. Mind your road manners. Remember, discipline comes first.
So said Ma’am Mayavati, a former schoolmistress, and her class of 206 MLAs nodded obediently.
The Bahujan Samaj Party chief, whose rallies have often outdone football stadiums in chaos and plunged streets and railway stations into turmoil, has kick-started efforts to build a “clean” and “low-key” image for her government a day before the oath-taking.
The contrast couldn’t be starker with the mood of her first swearing-in 12 years ago. She had chosen as venue the Ambedkar Maidan, where a large crowd of her Dalit supporters turned unruly, prompting a police baton-charge and forcing Mayavati to leave as soon as the ceremony had ended.
Tomorrow at 1 pm, she will be taking the oath at the Raj Bhavan, where just about 1,000 people have been invited.
The need to set off a contrast with predecessor Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government, too, was on her mind.
Her first job would be to clamp down on law-breakers, she told her MLAs as they formally elected her legislature party leader. She put on them the onus of setting the example.
“When you drive down the road, give the impression to the public that you respect discipline and the rule of law. If you want any inspiration on discipline, look at nature and see how things are done in an orderly way,” the schoolteacher was back at her best.
During the past three years, Samajwadi Party MLAs had come to be known for their arrogance on the roads.
“Jis vahan me SP jhanda, wohi hai koi gunda (if a car has an SP flag, there must be a goon inside),” street wisdom cautioned the unwary.
The chief minister-designate’s message about a crackdown on law-breakers seemed to have got across quickly. Police were already stopping cars on Lucknow’s streets and searching them for weapons.
Party sources said Mayavati had realised the need to give her administration a clean image. Her short-lived governments of 1995, 1997 and 2002 had each got sucked into some controversy or the other.
Even in 2002, she had ministers like Amarmani Tripathi and Harishankar Tiwari, who had criminal cases against them. Tripathi got arrested for the murder of poet Madhumita Shukla, while Tiwari’s men embarrassed Mayavati by fighting gang wars on Gorakhpur’s streets.
This time, only a handful of her MLAs have criminal charges against them.
Mayavati met governor T.V. Rajeswar at 3 pm today, handing him her list of 206 MLAs, who include 51 Brahmins, 15 Thakurs, 30 Muslims and 61 Dalits. She was straightaway asked to form the government.
In keeping with her new “sarva jan” (everyone) mantra and rainbow coalition, Mayavati is expected to start with a 15-member ministry drawn from Muslims, Brahmins, Dalits and the Other Backward Classes. “It will be expanded later,” a party source said.