The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, March 16, 2003
Lead Article

How Maya Memsahib loves maya

The airing of the tape in which UP Chief Minister Mayawati asked her party leaders to divert development funds to the party kitty has opened a pandora’s box in the state, with allegations of gross corruption flying thick and fast. It is alleged that every posting was auctioned to the highest bidder. 
V. J. Bandopadhaya
reports from Lucknow.

THE slogan Gali gali mein shor hai, Mayawati chor hai rent the air in the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha recently as Opposition members, led by the Samajwadi Party, staged a demonstration inside the House. The provocation was the sudden ‘discovery’ of a video cassette showing Chief Minister Mayawati asking her MLAs and MPs to divert money from their respective Area Development Fund to the party's kitty.

No one was surprised by the high-decibel slogan because every one, from a politician to a common man on the street, knows by now that Mayawati has a penchant for using government money rather freely.

The leader of the Congress Legislature Party, (CLP) Pramod Tiwari, said that this government is a fountainhead of corruption. "Many political leaders and ministers are known to have earned money when they were in power. But the amount of money Mayawati has made in her 10-month rule is unparalleled in the annals of UP," he said.

Not many disagree with him—not even the bureaucrats. When Mayawati was sworn in as the Chief Minister for the third time on May 4, 2002, there was an apprehension among bureaucrats that there would be a price tag on plum postings, and whosoever was willing to foot the bill would get them.


The apprehension was proved right. In just 10 months, at least 467 IAS officers were transferred, some of them five times in just three months. The joke making the rounds of the UP State Secretariat is that the officials pay money to get a `good' posting, but they are kicked out if some other official bids more for the said post, and this merry-go-round is still going on.

Though a joke, the fact remained a discreet secret as to how much money actually had changed hands during transfer of officials. No official has ever dared to speak out. "The collection of money may be in crores ... no one is sure about the exact amount because a person who had paid money for a plum posting keeps the amount a closely guarded secret," said a senior IAS officer, who is also the office-bearer of the Uttar Pradesh IAS Association.

But the discovery of a video cassette showing Mayawati asking her party MLAs and MPs to contribute from their "earning/commission" from their respective Area Development Fund to the party kitty has opened a pandora's box. The Action Group, a self-righteous organisation of IAS officers from the state, has also asked its cadre to come out clean and "bare their hearts" as to how much money they had actually paid either to Mayawati or to her cronies to get a plum posting.

"If bureaucrats can have courage and disclose as how much money they had paid for their postings then it could be another Watergate scandal," said former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh. He disclosed that officials had told him in private that Mayawati had asked anything between 2 lakh and 15 lakh for a posting. According to Kalyan Singh’s information, for any posting in Noida or Ghaziabad, or for being posted in plum departments like excise, urban development or revenue, the officials have paid Rs 5 lakh to Rs 8 lakh. The rates for Agriculture Production Commissioner and Industrial Development Commissioner postings were much more, said a highly placed source.

The question often asked is if Mayawati is earning so much of money where has she stashed it? She has, so far, not invested in real estate, neither does she own a bungalow or a farm house nor has she shown any flashy liking for cars. People close to Mayawati said that she had "fallen in love" with diamonds, a fact she displayed on her birthday celebrations. Others say that Mayawati never keeps money in a bank. She prefers to keep the cash stacked in boxes. An indication to this fact was that in October last, when Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL) had started a drive disconnecting the power supply of those people whose power dues were over Rs 25,000, newspapers ran a story claiming that Mayawati's 13, Mall Avenue residence (not official Chief Minister residence) has a power arrears of Rs 1.86 lakh.

Mayawati cleared the dues at one go and paid the whole amount in cash turning many a head in the UPPCL.

Raj Bahadur, a founder-member of the BSP, who later was elevated to the post of state president of the party, and was thrown out of the party, said BSP is no longer a party it used to be.

"I remember in the 1991 assembly elections when I was state president we did not have money to contest election. We used to call ourselves as 'Garibon ki party' and used to move around on bicycles asking for votes," said Raj Bahadur.

"The character of the party has changed. No longer is the BSP garib now. Almost every senior leader, party MLA or MP has the latest model of Bolero, Marshals or Sumos. They brandish latest mobile phones and have people to carry their bags", he said, adding that the BSP leader is no longer different from that of the BJP or the SP.

Another former BSP leader, R. K. Chaudhry, who was at one time a close lieutenant of Mayawati, said that earlier only dalits used to be members of this party. Now, anyone who has money can walk into the party and even get a party ticket for either the assembly or Parliament, depending upon his contribution towards the party kitty.

During last elections there were rumours that BSP assembly tickets were available at a premium. Though Mayawati denied these allegations, many industrialists (who had never dabbled in politics) won in the last assembly elections on the BSP tickets, thereby giving credence to the allegation.

Mayawati's first splurge with government money started when she became Chief Minister for the first time in 1994. In her six-month rule, she planned the construction of Ambedkar Park in Gomti Nagar and Parivartan Chowk at the heart of the city near K.D. Singh Babu stadium. Defying all the objections raised by officials, she asked them to arrange for the money and even directed them to divert the same from the contingency fund

In her second innings as Chief Minister in 1997, she gave a final shape to the Ambedkar Park project. Initially, the project was to cost Rs 40 crore. As there was no budgetary allocation, she diverted Rs 25 crore from the contingency fund inviting criticism from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.

When the BJP came to power, the then chief minister Kalyan Singh ordered an enquiry into the "misuse of government money" and appointed senior IAS officer George Joseph as an enquiry officer. The report found Mayawati guilty of misappropriation of government money and even an accusing finger was pointed towards Mayawati's rakhi brother Lalji Tandon—a senior BJP leader and Urban Development Minister in the present government.

Then came the float pump controversy in which Mayawati was charged with accepting a commission in the purchase of float pumps from a Chennai-based company. The pumps were for Uttar Pradesh Fire Brigade. The case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Opposition trained its guns at her, demanding her immediate arrest.

Riding roughshod, when Mayawati returned to power, she got the Ambedkar Park project completed as the project cost increased from Rs 40 crore to Rs 100 crore. And the float pump case was conveniently pushed to the lumber room. The cat was out when Mayawati decided to celebrate her 47th birthday on January 15 this year as a grand function. SP national president said that crores of rupees from government exchequer were spent to celebrate the birthday of a dalit ki beti.

"I am ready to give a proof to CBI that Mayawati had spent crores of rupees ... I have got proof... the Central Government should order an enquiry into the whole affair," said Mulayam Singh Yadav. The SP leader's allegation were dittoed by the CAG which claimed that Rs 1.14 crore was taken away from the contingency fund to celebrate Mayawati's birthday. "The Chief Minister has looted public money", said leader of opposition Mohd. Azam Khan, adding "Mayawati is treating UP treasury as her personal bank account from where she has withdrawn money at her own whim and fancy". The barbs of allegation are sharp, but the proof of corruption is not substantial. Rakesh Pandey, a senior journalist, said that "Corruption in UP has become a synonym of staying in power." Taking a cue from the old adage `Make hay while the sun shines,' the politicians in UP loot government money as long as they are in power. This is the `mantra' of modern-day politic and everyone is adhering to it. he added.



Mayawati’s birthday bash

THE 47th birthday of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati was reduced to a government function in which, the Opposition claims, over Rs 10 crore was spent. Different government departments were entrusted with the job of making the function a grand success.

The preparation of the function was immaculate. On December 27, the state Secretariat Administration Department (SAD) held a meeting and entrusted different departments, including the PWD, Department of Culture, Department of Health and Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) with jobs ranging from decoration of stage to distribution of sweets and from crowd management to organising a cultural programme to mark this mega event.

The PWD erected a water-proof pandal for over 25,000 people and made `decent' seating arrangements for VIPs and commoners.

The Lucknow Development Authority decorated the stage with mirrors all around, a la Mughal-e-Azam, so that Mayawati could see herself from every where and from every angle. The entire venue was also decorated with the cut-outs of Mayawati.

The district administration made arrangements for thousand of kilos of ladoos that were distributed among the people. The Chief Medical Officer was entrusted with the job of supervising the quality of these ladoos, while the LDA was asked to provide mineral water bottles to the visitors to wash down the ladoos.

To cap it all, the Information Department held an exhibition highlighting the achievements of the Mayawati-led government with the entire focus on the personality of the Chief Minister.

The government however claimed that the day was celebrated as Swabhimaan diwas (a day of self respect) for the sake of all the oppressed classes.


Political rivalry, lies and videotape

THE video-cassette showing Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati asking her legislators and MPs to divert a part of their commission from their respective Area Development Fund to the party's kitty, is not a case of investigative journalism `a la Tehelka.' The discovery of the cassette was by chance, resulting into a political storm in this cow belt.

The cassette, as Mayawati had admitted, shows her addressing BSP workers and the venue was not Lucknow but Ambedkarnagar, a district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, around 200 km from the state capital.

An investigation carried out by this newspaper shows that the cassette shows the footage of a BSP meeting held in Ambedkarnagar on February 11, 2001. A former BSP MLA , who had now joined Samajwadi Party, had arranged that meeting in which Mayawati inaugurated the party office, which was said to had been constructed with financial help from a few MLAs and MPs.

To record the proceedings of that function, the said leader had hired a video photographer. As Mayawati was told about contributions made by MLAs and MPs in setting up that office, the Chief Minister, reportedly, "gave some suggestions" to her MLAs and MPs on the use of the Area Development Fund.

No one took any cognisance of Mayawati's statement that time. However, with the passage of time, the said leader developed differences with Mayawati when he was denied the assembly ticket from Ambedkarnagar. He contested the election as an ally of BJP, but lost. He later joined the Samajwadi Party.

Recently, the said leader gave that video cassette to one of his friends, who works for an electronic channel, to change it into a Compact Disc (CD). The CD was made immediately. During checking of the audio quality of the said CD, the journalist friend of the leader, realised the "news value" of Mayawati's utterances.

Mulayam Singh Yadav was contacted in New Delhi and he asked the said leader to contact the party's national general secretary Shivpal Singh Yadav. Immediately, copies of the CD as well as cassettes were made and by evening a SP delegation met Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri and handed over the CD to him.

— V.J.B