Politics of abuse

By Kancha Ilaiah

Morally, even putting up portraits of the prime minister in government offices with public money is also wrong.

Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s arrest on July 15 in Uttar Pradesh for abusing and attacking Mayawati personally is leading to a new turn of events. The Congress is doing things in a hurry to improve its position in the state. It appointed Rita Bahuguna as the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president very recently and she obviously wanted to prove her mettle.

She is supposed to have said at a public meeting that “if Dalit women are raped in UP, Mayawati is giving Rs 25,000, as compensation, if the parents are victimised, she is giving Rs 75,000. You must refuse that kind of money and say if Mayawati gets raped we will give her Rs 1 crore.” Of course, different TV channels reported different versions of Rita’s statement.

However, the statement by the UPCC chief is not only in bad taste but it was aimed at personally humiliating Mayawati in public, which could easily attract the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Hence the UP police booked her under that Act along with 153 A (delivering inflammatory speeches) and also 109 of IPC (using abusive language).
Mayawati’s shrewd and quick decision to arrest Rita Bahuguna paid her off. For the last few months Mayawati had been under attack for installing her own statues, along with that of Mahatma Jothiba Phule, Ambedkar, Periyar, Kanshi Ram and so on. There are a number of disproportionate assets cases against her. There is a PIL against her on the issue of spending state money on the statues.

In fact, all this was happening only after she did not do that well in the recent Lok Sabha elections. She was a bit shaky and was moving cautiously about her relationship with the Centre. On her own she extended unconditional support to the Congress at the Centre. But now Rita Bahuguna came to her rescue quite foolishly and Mayawati has used that occasion quite well.

If the public pronouncements of Digvijay Singh, who is not only a senior general secretary of the Congress but a mature politician himself is any indication, then Rita Bahuguna will be removed from her position soon. Since Sonia Gandhi also did not approve of her statement she will be marginalised in the party.

Rita Bahuguna, daughter of former UP chief minister H N Bahuguna, comes from a very rich upper caste background. She must have been feeling quite disgusted at being ruled by a Dalit woman with such an image of her own. Out of frustration she must have used such a language, perhaps not knowing that a statement of that kind easily would attract the SC/ST Atrocities Act.

The Act in its section on offences says “intentional insults or intimidation with the intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or Tribe in any place with public view” shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extent to five years and with fine. Rita Bahuguna now faces the consequences of her intemperate statement. Mayawati knows how to fight her battles. She fought several battles against Mulayam Singh Yadav earlier, which propelled her to political prominence. Now the Congress has given her a chance to fight them and she will do it. Rahul Gandhi’s statement on July 17 that Mayawati is spending all the state’s money on statues and not on development does not change the course of her fight.

The Congress cannot fight her on the issue of statues. Wherever the Congress state governments exist they have been spending a lot money on the statues of Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Nehru and of course Mahatma Gandhi too.

A moral question that they are trying to raise is that Mayawati is installing her own statues when she is the chief minister. The PIL pending in the court also cannot stop that process because that project has the state cabinet’s approval.

Morally, even putting up the portraits of the prime ministers in government offices with government money is also wrong. Publishing the photographs of the prime minister and chief ministers in government advertisements is also wrong. Several hundred crores are being spent on such advertisements.

The Mayawati government is within its powers to advertise her image through the means of statues. So long as the Dalits, Muslims and other poor masses do not feel that their welfare is being neglected and the Congress continues to neglect them, it has no way of coming to power in UP.

With Rita Bahuguna’s arrest Mayawati once again gained credibility. Given the fact that Rita Bahuguna comes from a ruling class family of UP, Mayawati’s soft approach towards the Brahmins may also change. Interestingly, Mayawati deployed her aid Satish Chandra Mishra to defend her in public.

Many people doubted Mayawati’s ability to run a political party like the BSP with so many enemies around her when she took over the reigns of that party after Kanshi Ram was suddenly incapacitated with a brain stroke. But she has indeed proved her mettle.



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