WikiLeaks cable on Mayawati


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

     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 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.

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