The Indian Express, NDTV 24X7's, May 31, 2005
'We are trying hard that in the next 12-13 years, we will give India it's first Dalit Prime Minister-man or woman'
Love her or hate her, yet BSP chief Mayawati-Dalit icon, shrewd politician and controversial chief minister-represents a new energy in Indian politics. Taking the reins from her guru Kanshi Ram, she's India's first Dalit woman chief minister and her tirades against 'manuvadi' politics and aggressive campaigning have taken Dalit mobilization from strength to strength. Known of her imperious ways with the bureaucracy, she recently threatened to withdraw support from the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over the CBI's questioning her in Taj Corridor case. She tells Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of The Indian Express on NDTV 24X7's Walk the Talk that both BJP and the Congress want to suppress the backward castes. (The Indian Express, Tuesday, May 31, 2005). This programme get repeated broadcast on the NDTV.
» It's a privilege to have you on Walk The Talk as you seldom talk to the English media.
It's not as if I have a dislike for English, but the people represent live in villages and understand only Hindi, and I would like them to hear whatever I have to say.
» But you were studying to become a collector where you would have had to use English.
In that case I would not be representing the backward and the downtrodden and would have given you an interview in an air conditioned room and not in the heat like this.
» Even I may not have been standing, talking to you in that case. Do you ever regret not joining the IAS and joining the politics?
Earlier, I used to think that I would become an IAS officer and serve my people. But I realized then that the IAS works under politicians and I too should join politics. When I became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, a number of IAS and IPS officers came to me and asked me about the priorities of my government, I saw that the politician can direct the bureaucrat.
» You have always had controversies regarding the bureaucracy. You once said that the bureaucracy trembles in terror at the mention of your name.
Before I became CM of UP, the bureaucrats would not work at the grassroots level and had to no idea of the problems of the people. So when I became the CM, I directed the DMs and SSPs to sit in their offices from 10 am to12 and listen to the grievances of the people.
» But what about your statement that they should look up to you and not b scared of you?
I used to given time bound instructions to the officers and would review their work at the end of the period. If their work did not measure up, I would penalise them.
» This had a negative effect on the bureaucracy. You transferred so many of them.
Those officers who performed their duties of serving the people never had a problem, but those who don't perform well do have to be bear the brunt.
» You have inherited your legacy from Kanshi Ram.
The party was formed after I joined Kanshi Ram on 14 th April 1984. I consider him my guru, I have always had his blessings and I have to put my life into politics which has in turn helped him too. We have both worked hard to achieve what we have got.
» Why has there been so much controversy after his illness?
His family is very innocent. Our political opponents took advantage of that and tempted them with monetary and political gains to create this controversy but the Bahujan Samaj Party supported me even when his family went to court.
» Are you taking care of him in the same way that his family would have?
Even better. People say even a son would not have taken such good care of his father.
» So you have nothing to hide about this?
No, nothing at all. The Supreme Court ordered a team of seven specialist doctors from AIIMS to come here and have a look at Kanshi Ram and submit a report. Their report said that everything was fine and he did not need to be shifted to hospital.
» But it is believed that you keep him in hiding and don't let him meet anyone?
This is my residence. How can I let in everyone? I have Z plus security cover. My political opponents could send some anti-social element to plant a bomb here.
» Do you let the media see him?
We let the media meet him at the hospital.
» The controversy has really started after he was shifted here from the hospital.
It started when he was at the Batra Hospital itself. His family went to the courts while he was there. Kanshi Ram made a statement then that they were wrong and that Mayawati was doing the right thing.
» Is he still more happy staying with you than with his family?
» So why don't you let the media met him now?
I have never stopped them.
» Can we see him now?
Sure, why not.
» You were groomed from a very early age by Kanshi Ram. I think he heard you giving a speech.
He was very impressed then.
» You were about 20-25 years then.
No even younger. At that time Kanshi Ram thought that I would help him in his political movement. Hello. (To Kanshi Ram). The media is here to see you.
» (To Kanshi Ram) I met you for the first time in 1988 during the Allahabad by-elections when you stood against V. P. Singh.
He's your well wisher
» (To Kanshi Ram) I told her that everyone says she keeps you confined here and doesn't let anyone meet you.
We take good care of him and keep him here on his own will.
» (Mayawati to Kanshi Ram) Are you happy here?
Kanshi Ram: Yes (Mayawati to Shekhar) he can't speak much. One half of his body is paralysed and recovery is difficult. But he's happier here than he was at the hospital.
(Mayawati to Kanshi Ram): What will you eat for dinner? Would you like chole bhature ? Would you like some sweet? He really like chole bhature . The doctors have told him not take sweets but he wants it.
» Di Kanshi Ram tell you to leave the IAS and join politics?
He was very impressed by my speech and thought that I would become a good politician if properly groomed. He came to my house with some of his colleagues and asked my parents what they wanted me to become. They said they wanted me to become an IAS officer. To this he said that he wanted me to become a politician so that a number of IAS officers would need to stand up in front of her. I was the CM of UP thrice and when he saw a number of IAS officers standing up in front of me, he was extremely happy.
Kanshi Ram would himself say that you should take action against those who don't work. He was very happy with my actions.
» You were groomed by him and it seemed to be a seamless change of guard when you took over from him. Who are you grooming to take over from you now that your party has from you now that your party has about 8 per cent of the votes?
We got more than 8 per cent. In UP we got about 25 percent of the vote. But yes, at the national level you may be correct.
» So who is your successor?
Just the way you are asking me now, people used to ask Kanshi Ram the same question. In December 2001, he announced that I was his political successor. In the same way I too will announce my successor when the time comes.
» Does that mean there is someone?
There are many. There's competition between many.
» We should let Kanshi Ram rest and not trouble him with our conversation. Who are the people who advise you?
No one. I make my own decisions.
» There was another incident during a press conference of Kanshi Ram.
It happened right here outside this house. If someone like you from the media ask for time for an interview, I talk to you, take you inside my house even make you meet Kanshi Ram. But on that day the media people tried to forcefully enter my house without an appointment. They were at fault and not us.
» Which political parties do you consider not to be of a 'Manuvadi mindset?
Only the BSP.
» What about the parties from the south like the DMK and the AIADMK?
Even their mindsets haven't changed yet.
» Are you saying this because you plan to challenge their vote banks too?
The people in the forefront of these parties are people with the same 'Manuvadi mindset.
» Tell me a bit about your personal life. You decided at such a young age that you wouldn't marry.
After reading about Baba Saheb Ambedkar and other leaders of the backward class movement and their sacrifices, I decided to forget my personal life in order to carry forward their struggle.
» In the little time that you get to yourself, do you watch a film or read a book or watch sports?
No, one of these. I do keep abreast will all the news and happenings.
» To keep track of what wrong being written about you?
A politician needs to stay alert. But if I do get time, I like to spend time with nature. I spend time in my garden here.
» Jayalalitha once said that she regretted having joined politics at such a young age and would have fought with MGR today and told him that she wanted to become a reputed lawyer like Fali Nariman. Do you have similar regrets?
I don't think so. I have achieved a lot at a young age for the backward people of U.P. I think we will get power in the other states as well as the centre soon.
» When did you think that India will have a Dalit Prime Minister?
We are trying hard and hope that in the next 12-13 years, we will give India it's first Dalit PM-man or woman.
» There seems to be new chemistry between you and Laloo Prasad Yadav. Do you talk to him?
We exchange pleasantries when we meet in Parliament.
» Do you ever exchange stories concerning the CBI with him.
I stay busy with may party work.
» An image of yours has been created, with the security always around you .
That's because my life is in danger. Politics in India has degenerated. Politicians counter their opponents by using criminal means.
» Who are you scared of?
» What about the CBI?
Why should I be scared of them. I haven't done anything wrong to be scared of them
» What happened in the Taj corridor case?
The BJP got me implicated in this case in order to apply political pressure on me. It was under the BJP government of Rajnath Singh that this project was approved. The project was actually worth Rs.175 crore while my government released just Rs.17 crore for it. I had nothing to do with this project. The matter is in the courts now and I can't comment more.
» Do you think that the BJP betrayed you?
It was just a way to put political pressure on me. It doesn't matter whether it's the BJP or the Congress, they all want to pressure the backward castes But we will stand and fight all these false cases.
» People can say a lot of things about you, but not that you are scared of anyone.
There will be no place for me in politics of I get scared.