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.
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.
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 insecurities.
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.
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