|NOIDA: Dalit power close to Delhi|
If one went by the reaction among Dalits, it was clear that her gamble has succeeded. Criticism of Mayawati's display of wealth and the construction of huge monuments under her rule, has proved counterproductive for these parties.
It is true that money has been spent. But this is equally true that for the last 64 years, public funds have been spent in similar manner across the country. There was never this much scrutiny or criticism in the past. Dalits do get the impression that Mayawati is targeted by an elitist and 'Upper Caste' media.
Is it that the press is not comfortable with Mayawati's opulence or the assertion of Dalit identity. On CNN-IBN Rajdeep Sardesai's question that wouldn't the money be better spent on hospitals or schools, invited wrath.
For a Dalit who feels pride when he walks into these memorials, there is no such connection. For the weaker sections of the society, it is a historical correction, something which is needed to restore pride among them after centuries of casteist exploitation.
On various TV channels, pro-Dalit speakers retorted:
"Why no one questioned when vast amounts were spent on stadiums in a country that can't afford to splurge money?". "Why government spends crores on Kumbha Melas?". "Why this question was not posed when thousands of monuments were built in different states for decades?"
"If this is misuse of funds, why not the tonnes of gold kept in temples be used for public welfare?". "Why not all forms of luxuries including ACs in government offices or luxurious stay for ministers and babus in five star hotels or travels in flights not questioned?".
"Why no one is uncomfortable when schemes were named after Gandhi, Nehru, Indira, Rajeev and Deendayal Upadhyay or Shyama Prasad Mookerjee but only questions are raised when memorials built for Mahatma Phule, Dr BR Ambedkar or Shahuji Maharaj?
Clearly, the above mentioned questions indicate that Dalits are troubled by the fact that projects, schemes and monuments named after upper caste personalities have not been questioned but Mayawati's actions are selectively targeted.
In discussions on TV channels, more and more Dalits are openly speaking up. They are strongly supporting Mayawati, defending her actions and labelling the media as hostile to her. They claim that even though law-and-order situation has improved, she doesn't get as much credit for her.
The section of Dalits feel that it is for the first time that their heroes are getting the much deserved respect and honour. There is anger that whenever Mayawati displays her jewellery or splurges money, she is attacked but others don't get as much bad press as she has to put up with.
The debate will continue but is it just a question of perspective. Do Dalits feel that for centuries they were denied entry into temples and now they are rediscovering their heroes and giving them proper place to secure honour in the casteist society.
So shall the society and journalists make an exception for Mayawati and be less harsh on her! The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief knows well that her actions appeal to her constituency. That the monuments symbolize Dalit pride.
Perhaps, India not given proper place to Dalit icons till now. Or just mere symbolism by naming a few places after Ambedkar. But the Dalits want more. They want equality.Ter opulence and wealth give the so-called lower castes a sense of satisfaction.
The fact that apart from Kanshi Ram, she also has got her own statues installed, is criticised more often. Each of her monuments has sent a strong political message. Now the monuments have come up not in Lucknow or Agra but close to Delhi, the national capital.
The sprawling park in Noida on the border of Delhi, unnerves the Congress. BSP's hold on Congress' traditional vote bank, the Dalits, gets stronger despite Rahul Gandhi's visits and stays at Dalit houses in UP. Understandably, Congress doesn't like it. Obviously, the SP, BJP also don't like it.
But does the media also dislike it? This is the million dollar question. It is a well-known fact that mainstream English and Hindi media is largely dominated by Upper Classes and Upper Castes. So is the media really biased towards Mayawati?