Mayawati and WikiLeaks: How Media lies to you

by Dilip Mandal, translated from Hindi by Ritu Ranjan Kumar

[A set of unverified gossipy statements about the UP Chief Minister Mayawati from unnamed journalists forms the basis of the WikiLeaks cables released a few days ago. Yet, the Indan media went to town about the contents being the truth. For, it only extended the Indian media's sustained gender, caste, class stereotyped campaign on the UP Chief minister, Mayawati- Round Table India]

Look at what is in the Wiki cable and how media misinterpreted it:

(Some journalists from UP supplied several pieces of information to the US Ambassador and based on that information, the Ambassador sent a report to Washington, which is now shamelessly being projected as a major leak by WikiLeaks. This is not a leak by WikiLeaks: instead it's a set of statements made by the UP journalists in the year 2008.)

Assessing the political atmosphere in Uttar Pradesh just before the (2009) Lok Sabha elections, the US Political Consul to India wrote a report. Later, he sent his confidential report to the US Government. The report is dated 23 October 2008. This confidential cable got leaked by WikiLeaks on 30 August 2011. Immediately after realizing that Mayawati is mentioned in the leaked cable, the Indian media gathered together like hungry wolves and started spreading sensational and misleading news about Mayawati. The most observable headlines in media are as follows:

Mayawati sent empty jet to Mumbai for sandals: WikiLeaks (Times of India)

Mayavati sent her plane for her sandals (Dainik Hindustan)

Mayawati sent empty jet to Mumbai for sandals: Wikileaks (Economic Times)

BSP chief a 'first-rate egomaniac' (Indian Express)

WikiLeaks: Mayawati's 'eccentric paranoia' included 9 cooks, 2 tasters (NDTV)

Maya sent plane for her sandals (Navbharat Times)

Mayawati brought sandals in a private jet from Mumbai: Wikileaks (Samaylive)

Mayawati sent jet to fetch sandals: WikiLeaks (IBN Live)

And what these items of news contained was:

* 'She constructed a private road from her residence to her office, which is cleaned immediately after her multiple vehicle convoy reaches its destination," the cable said in an analysis of her "eccentricities, whims and insecurities'.

* It added an account of Mayawati making a state minister do sit-ups in front of her as punishment for a minor protocol error, and reported it cost $250,000 to run as a BSP parliamentary candidate due to 'institutionalized corruption'.

* Wikileaks cable says that 'she appointed food tasters to taste food meant for her. This employee tastes food before it's served to her ensure it's not poisoned'.

* Wikileaks cable says she constructed a private road from her residence to her office, which is cleaned immediately   after her multiple vehicle convoy reaches its destination

* The US embassy cables from the year 2007-2009 have described Mayawati as 'a first-rate egomaniac' and paranoid about her security. The cable also said that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister is obsessed with becoming prime minister.

* 'When she needed new sandals, her private jet flew empty to Mumbai to retrieve her preferred brand,' said the US embassy cable.

* 'She fears assassination and demanded from the central government the highest level of protection available. In addition to this outsized security apparatus, she constructed a private road from her residence to her office, which is cleaned immediately after her multiple vehicle convoy reaches its destination,' said the cable.

Does WikiLeaks say all these? Who is 'revealing' these things? The diplomatic cable sent to Washington should be read very carefully in its original form. Let the truth be established and the lies be exposed. Please go through excerpts of the cable:

1. Mulford does not say anything himself. He is only quoting the views of several Lucknow based journalists:

"According to several journalists, the law and order situation in UP has improved only in that Mayawati has centralized corruption in her own hands. She has become a virtual paranoid dictator replete with food tasters and a security entourage to rival a head of state"

It can be easily observed that the matter related to "food tasters" has been said on behalf of some journalists. Now, in the year 2011 journalists present the opinions of their own class as a 'WikiLeaks' revelation', thus sensationalizing the issue.

2. Another issue which is being broadcast by the media as a WikiLeaks' revelation is as follows:

One Lucknow journalist related a story in which a State Minister was forced to do sit-ups in front of her as penance for not first asking permission to call on UP's governor. Mayawati forced a civil servant to resign when she learned his daughter had joined the Congress Party in Delhi.

3. The basis of the information in this cable is explained in the cable itself. The US diplomat has honestly mentioned the sources. But, the Indian media is not honest enough to mention the source of the information in the cable:

Poloff traveled to three cities in Uttar Pradesh (UP) during the week of October 13-17 to gauge the political state of play. A wide range of business, political, academic and media contacts generally agreed that Chief Minister Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have done little to promote development since her May 2007 election.

4. Mulford reports on the basis of the same sources:

Mayawati's full majority victory in May 2007 UP State Assembly elections left her beholden to no one and has allowed her to act on her eccentricities, whims and insecurities. When she needed new sandals, her private jet flew empty to Mumbai to retrieve her preferred brand. According to Lucknow journalists, she employs nine cooks (two to cook, the others to watch over them) and two food tasters. She fears assassination and demanded from the central government the highest level of protection available. In addition to this outsized security apparatus, she constructed a private road from her residence to her office, which is cleaned immediately after her multiple vehicle convoy reaches its destination.

It is clear that whatever views journalists expressed to Mulford became the basis of the report sent to Washington and later got released by WikiLeaks. And the shameless Indian media is presenting this cable as 'WikiLeaks revelations'.

WikiLeaks, the website owned by Julian Assange has only released and made public the US diplomatic cable. But the manner in which the Indian media has sensationalized and propagandized and spread rumors about this issue is a real shameful act. One is free to criticize Mayawati, there is no problem at all. But to criticize her, the shield of WikiLeaks' trustworthiness must not be exploited.

The original cable:

Source: http://www.wikileaks.ch/cable/2008/10/08NEWDELHI2783.html

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 002783

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/25/2017

TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI PINR KISL IN

SUBJECT: MAYAWATI: PORTRAIT OF A LADY

REF: A. NEW DELHI 2012

¶B. NEW DELHI 825

Classified By: A/PolCouns Pushpinder Dhillon for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)

¶1. (C) Summary: Poloff traveled to three cities in Uttar

Pradesh (UP) during the week of October 13-17 to gauge the

political state of play. A wide range of business,

political, academic and media contacts generally agreed that

Chief Minister Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)

have done little to promote development since her May 2007

election. According to several journalists, the law and

order situation in UP has improved only in that Mayawati has

centralized corruption in her own hands. She has become a

virtual paranoid dictator replete with food tasters and a

security entourage to rival a head of state. Civil servants

will not speak to the press for fear of losing their

positions. Journalists admitted they feared retribution

should they print anything negative about Mayawati. One

journalist claimed that all civil servants' and most

journalists' phones are tapped. Politically, contacts noted

that while Mayawati's support from Brahmins and Muslims may

be waning, she remains extremely popular with her Dalit vote

base. Mayawati is obsessed with becoming Prime Minister and

the BSP will spend huge sums in next year's national polls.

With all signs pointing to another coalition government in

Delhi, Mayawati could be a powerbroker and perhaps even a

king (or queen) maker. End Summary.

L'Etat, C'est Moi

-----------------

¶2. (C) Poloff me a host of contacts in the UP capital,

Lucknow, as well as Kanpur and Varanasi. Those contacts that

must deal with the government (which in state-centric India

means nearly everyone) remarked on Mayawati's vice-like grip

on all levers of power. All decisions must run through

Mayawati or her very small coterie of advisors. One Lucknow

journalist related a story in which a State Minister was

forced to do sit-ups in front of her as penance for not first

asking permission to call on UP's governor. Mayawati forced

a civil servant to resign when she learned his daughter had

joined the Congress Party in Delhi. Other than BSP

stalwarts, none expressed an even begrudging approval of

Mayawati's rule.

Institutionalized Corruption

----------------------------

¶3. (C) Most contacts acknowledged that the law Qnd order

situation in the state had improved somewhat from the

previous Samajwadi Party (SP) government of Mulayam Singh

Yadav. However, this is not because Mayawati has put more

police on the streets or reduced corruption. Rival mafia

gangs shooting each other in the streets while vying for

dominance characterized the SP's rule. Now Mayawati has

institutionalized corruption with competitive fealty payments

to her replacing shootouts. Just to run as a BSP

parliamentary candidate costs roughly 250,000 dollars. This

does not ensure victory of course, but with the BSP likely to

field candidates in over 300 constituencies nationally, it

does ensure Mayawati's campaign coffers will be full, in

addition to all her other revenue sources including payoffs

and kickbacks from almost every interaction that large

businesses have with the state government, standard practices

in UP. In comparison, several commercial contacts in Lucknow

and Kanpur spoke glowingly of the business climate in Gujarat

and its Chief Minister, Narendra Modi.

Eccentric Paranoia

------------------

¶4. (C) Mayawati's full majority victory in May 2007 UP State

Assembly elections left her beholden to no one and has

allowed her to act on her eccentricities, whims and

NEW DELHI 00002783 002 OF 002

insecurities. When she needed new sandals, her private jet

flew empty to Mumbai to retrieve her preferred brand.

According to Lucknow journalists, she employs nine cooks (two

to cook, the others to watch over them) and two food tasters.

She fears assassination and demanded from the central

government the highest level of protection available. In

addition to this outsized security apparatus, she constructed

a private road from her residence to her office, which is

cleaned immediately after her multiple vehicle convoy reaches

its destination. India has seen such political personalities

before, and never failed to deal with them eventually at the

ballot box.

Press Cowered

-------------

¶5. (C) Mayawati rarely speaks with the media and when she

does hold a press conference, questions are not allowed.

More worrying, Lucknow journalists claimed the government has

tapped their phones as well as those of civil servants. Most

civil servants now refuse to talk to the press. Reporters

fear losing their jobs should they print anything negative

about Mayawati. Caving to political pressure, the Hindustan

Times removed its Lucknow correspondent after she published a

satirical piece about the Chief Minister. The newspaper's

owners also operate sugar mills and chemical factories in UP.

Caste Politics Dominates

------------------------

¶6. (C) Comment: A coalition of Dalits and Brahmins (and a

small percentage of Muslims) elected Mayawati in 2007.

Dalits will remain with Mayawati regardless of poor

governance, simply because the fact that one of their own is

Chief Minister provides them heretofore unimaginable pride.

With the virtual collapse of the Congress Party and the

weakening of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in UP over the

last several years, the higher castes fled to the BSP to end

the lawlessness of the SP's rule. But after more than a

year, only a narrow sliver of Brahmins who are close to

Mayawati's Brahmin advisor (and virtual number two), Satish

Mishra, have seen any return for their support. They could

go back to the Congress or the BJP. Though the Congress

Party secured the support of the SP for the June 22

confidence vote over the Indo-US civil nuclear initiative

(Ref A), the two parties appear to be making little headway

yet in reaching a seat-sharing agreement for UP. If the

parties form a strong alliance, they can credibly challenge

the BSP. However, if terrorist bombings continue, many

Hindus will likely polarize to the BJP and Muslims will flock

back to their traditional SP home. In this case the SP would

see little to gain from a pre-poll alliance with Congress and

would prefer to play the field.

¶7. (C) Comment Continued: As for Mayawati's dream of becoming

Prime Minister, the most plausible scenario would entail weak

performances nationwide by both the Congress Party and the

BJP and a strong showing by Mayawati and other regional

parties. This would allow the BSP to dictate terms of a

third front (non-Congress, non-BJP) coalition in Delhi.

While inflation, development and terrorism will be the

"issues" in the coming national polls, caste remains the DNA

of UP politics, and no one has demonstrated more ability at

playing caste politics than Mayawati. End Comment.

MULFORD

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