The coming to power of Mayawati, India’s most powerful Dalit leader, in Uttar Pradesh has instilled fear in the minds of criminals and improved law and order, the US embassy to India felt after a review at the end of 100 days of her rule in UP in 2007.
While she may not be “up to it” as far as reversing UP’s slide into economic stupor is concerned, she has been able to crack down on Mulayam Singh government’s ‘thug culture,’ David Mulford, US ambassador to India wrote in October 2007.
Mulford’s assessment was based on his tour of and interactions in Uttar Pradesh as Mayawati completed 100 days of her stint that will run out early next year.
Lucknow Times of India Editor Dilip Awasthi was one of the people who drew the Ambassador’s attention to the better law and order situation in the state after Maywati came to power in mid 2007.
“..people feel more secure because Mayawati had taken steps to end “goonda raj.” UP citizens no longer feared violent reprisal for challenging the government, which he contended happened routinely under Mulayam.
“Awasthi pointed to other positive changes such as government workers showing up for work on time but conceded that Mayawati used an element of fear to implement these changes. The government workers “know they will be sacked” if they disobey her,” Mulford said.
Varanasi based Hindustan Times writer Prabhu Razdan too pointed out that Mayawati seems to be aiming high, possibly at the seat of the Prime Minister of India, by building parks and an image of the protector of Dalits.
“Razdan said Mayawati can enter a national campaign on the same themes that brought her to power in UP – promises to empower the downtrodden, citing as example her own struggle and through deifying Dr. Ambedkar by building parks in his honor,” the cable, leaked by Wikileaks, went on.
However, Mulford noted that most of the state’s intellegensia and journalists did not like Mayawati and he ascribed some of this to the fact that the ‘intellegensia’ came from a different class than Mayawati.
“While many interlocutors did not discount the possibility of her becoming the next Prime Minister, some were horrified at the prospect.
“Reflecting their class biases, they noted that her Hindi was “crude” and her English non-existent. Describing her as “unrefined,” they felt it was acceptable for her to represent UP in Delhi but were appalled at the prospect of Mayawati as the face of India on the international stage,” he pointed out.
Razdan also pointed to the ongoing controversy over the shutting of organized retail chains run by a major corporation. “A rumor Embassy officials heard frequently was that Mayawati was looking for her cut.. since her predecessor had already gotten his share,” he wrote.
“Mayawati’s own reputation for corruption and unpredictablility earned during her last stint at the helm of UP do not at this point engender confidence that this tenure will be different,” Mulford predicted.