|Mayavati’s personal security officer Padam Singh wipes her shoe at Auriya, near Kanpur, on Sunday. Picture by Naeem Ansari
Lucknow, Feb. 8: Mayavati is under fire after her 60-plus personal security officer was seen bending down to clean her shoes with his handkerchief at Auriya, near Kanpur, on Sunday.
The chief minister had just got off the helicopter and was standing talking to half-a-dozen officials when Padam Singh, a retired state cadre officer on extension, quietly cleaned her footwear.
The image was caught on television and triggered Opposition protests across the state today, with many MLAs raising the matter in the Assembly.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said: Is there no law, decorum or ethics in Uttar Pradesh? I am shocked that officers are made to do these jobs.
BSP sources said Padam Singh was working with Mayavati for long and used to be close to party founder Kanshi Ram, too. He oversees security arrangements for the chief minister whenever she is on the move, the sources added.
Mayavati was in Auriya, 105km from Lucknow, to inspect development projects.
Witnesses said Padam Singh was very quick. He noticed that the chief ministers shoe looked dirty. As if by instinct, he bent down and began cleaning it, said Satish Yadav, a local BSP panchayat leader who had gone to the airstrip to welcome Mayavati and was watching from a distance.
After TV channels started beaming the footage, politicians caught on.
Congress spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh said it was sad there is no dividing line between personal and official work for Uttar Pradesh government staff.
BJP leader Surya Pratap Shahi said: Her sense of feudalism is measured by this. She has been not only arrogant but feudalistic.
Old-timers in Uttar Pradesh recalled how Mayavati would become furious if party loyalists did not touch her feet.
Mayavati wants to empower the poor. Is this a sign of that empowerment? asked R.K. Chowdhary, a founding member of the BSP who was very close to Kanshi Ram but quit the party in the nineties over differences with Mayavati.
However, BSP leaders asked what was wrong with the gesture of an old loyalist.
Auraiya MLA Nawab Syed Kazim Ali said: Please tell me if the chief minister had asked the security officer to clean her shoes? If a handkerchief falls and if somebody picks it up, you cant make that into a major issue. I also go to rural areas. If there is a puddle of water and I step into the puddle, people help me clean my shoes. What is the big deal?
In the past, there has been criticism when ministers touched Mayavatis feet after taking oath. One such minister was Ashoke Kumar who stopped this show of loyalty only after he was photographed touching her feet in 2007 and the act was widely criticised. He was sacked last week for anti-party activity.
An IAS officer had invited censure in 1996 for carrying Mayavatis shoes in a bag on a trip abroad.