The Bahujan Samaj Party chief, Mayawati, is not an ordinary woman. She has successfully shouldered her responsibilities of representing the Bahujan Samaj throughout her political career in various ways. The charismatic personality which the BSP chief carries today is not a result of any "media publicity" or false propaganda of serving the nation. It is a result of her sacrifices and commitment towards the cause of the emancipation of Dalits and minorities from the oppressive Hindutva ideology.
Today, when the so-called progressive Dalit leaders like Athawale, Paswan and Udit Raj, have chosen to shelter the RSS and BJP by defeating their own people, there is not a single person except Mayawati, who can fearlessly represent Dalits and marginalized in parliament. Moreover, the BSP chief was the first person to demand justice for Rohith Vemula in the parliament when other Dalit leaders (loyal to the Congress and BJP) remained reticent by obeying their political masters. After Kanshiram, Mayawati is the only person who could revive the BSP by representing the "new phase" of Dalit Bahujan politics in the country. It is shameful that the patriarchal Hindus with their sick mentality leave no stone unturned to insult and defame Mayawati today.
Demeaning her appearance
Despite the fact that she has been one of the first Dalit Chief Ministers in the country, the caste Hindus still chose to ignore her with their filthy remarks on her appearance. The comment by the BJP spokesperson, Shaina NC, on Mayawati's appearance - on whether Mayawati is 'he or she' - shows her submissiveness to the typical and patriarchal image of a woman with "Sari and Bindi". Shania NC is either ignorant or politically immature because doesn't even recognize a lady who had been four times chief minister of Uttar Pradesh - in 1995, 1997, then from 2002 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2012. Moreover, in 2008, Forbes, the American business magazine, added Mayawati in the 59th place in its list of the 100 powerful women in the world. If Shaina NC is a confused soul, what is wrong with the BJP leadership? It's really shameful to see the criminal silence maintained by the mainstream BJP leadership on the insulting remarks by its party members.
Women from Dalit and marginalized communities are the easy targets of caste abuses by people with casteist and feudal mindsets. According to Sweta Yadav, "When Mandal Commission came, one of the slogans of protest was: Aarakshan kahan se aayi Karpuri ki maai biyahi [Where did reservation come from, Karpuri's (Karpuri Thakurs) mum got impregnated]; similarly, there is a prevalent saying in Bhojpuri: Kamjore ka lugai gaon bhar ka bhaujai (A weak person's wife is village's Bhabhi or half wife). Where do such things come from in people's minds really? How are women always at the receiving end of everything? It is very important to analyze the patriarchal and caste structure of our society to understand this. When Raj Babbar addresses Mayawati from the stage in an election rally in Ajamgarh with, "Haathi nahi woh hathni hai, Rajnath ki Patni hai" (She is not a bull-elephant but a cow-elephant, she is Rajnath's wife); Raj Babbar's perception of Mayawati was very much clear in his speech, where he shamelessly tried to defame Mayawati by inappropriate comments."
The Allegations of Corruption
The recent remark by the Uttar Pradesh BJP vice president Dayashankar Singh on Mayawati comes from his casteist and patriarchal understanding of a woman, which is rooted in the teachings of the Manu. Since the BJP has been ruling in the centre from last two years, it has been dreaming of forming its government in UP now. However, the biggest hurdle in the way of the BJP would be the BSP. The BJP is aware of the fact that the leadership of Mayawati and BSPs emergence as the ruling party in the state would provide more opportunities for Dalit assertion against caste discrimination and the Hindutva hegemony. Therefore, the BJP and other insecure political parties like Samajwadi Party, and Congress would try their best to target and defame Mayawati to gain political mileage. The BJP spokesperson, who is alleging the BSP chief is indulging in corruption in ticket distribution, should also speak about the corruption of higher castes in the BJP and why the kith and kin of the big leadership only monopolize important posts in the party. It is very much clear that due to the successful leadership of Mayawati, their local social support has become uncertain and it has shifted to the BSP considering its previous achievements in the state.
Reportedly, the Dalits in the state had started reporting caste abuses and atrocities in police stations which was not possible for them when the Congress or SP was in rule. The BSP chief played a major role in ending "Goonda Raj" during her tenure. The infamous criminals like Raja Bhaiya, who were surviving due to their political affiliations with the Congress and SP, were either sent to jail or were prohibited from the state jurisdiction. As Rahul Sonpimple, a student representative from Jawaharlal Nehru University opines, "no matter how much you criticize Mayawati, she is the woman who has broken the conventional relation between the gender and caste. She is the woman who dared to say that Raja Bhaiya is a criminal and he should be booked, when no other parties like the Congress and BJP could speak against him."
In conclusion, the recent remarks of the BJP spokesperson Daya Shankar are highly condemnable and strict action should be taken against him. With such kind of attacks, the Hindutva forces find a convenient way to publicly humiliate the Dalit leaders by belittling their struggles for achieving an egalitarian society. However, the assertions of her followers in various parts of the country prove that Mayawati still remains an inspiration and a canon of political thought to counter the oppressive and discriminatory forces in our society.
Swapnil Dhanraj is a PhD student at Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.