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  Opinion   Oped  22 Sep 2018  From Mayawati’s mansions to Delhi’s sewers

From Mayawati’s mansions to Delhi’s sewers

Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. Readers can send feedback to
Published : Sep 22, 2018, 1:30 am IST
Updated : Sep 22, 2018, 1:30 am IST

The BSP strongwoman does not believe in discretion. Nor is a humble lifestyle her mantra.

Mayawati (Photo: File)
 Mayawati (Photo: File)

If there is one thing you cannot accuse Mayawati of, it’s modesty. Just take a look at her blatant, brazen extravagance. The BSP strongwoman does not believe in discretion. Nor is a humble lifestyle her mantra. Ms Mayawati likes to live life queen size — no apologies. No fake alibis. She wants the world to know she has made it! And that she most certainly has! Take a look at her latest acquisition — a stupendously lavish 71,000 sq ft mansion in the heart of Lucknow (9 Mall Avenue, to be precise). As we all know, Behenji loves statues. And Behenji loves her own statues the most. Why, this wonderful lady has taken inspiration from various historic sources while commissioning a column at the entrance, which features not one but four statues of herself. Each statue faces a different direction. In other words — Ms Mayawati has the east-west-north-south covered. She isn’t taking any chances. The massive sandstone mansion also showcases the dalit movement through gigantic bronze relief work — which, but naturally features the proud owner of the property. Ms Mayawati claims the mansion serves a dual purpose — it will also function as a party office. Which is a bit odd, given that the BSP headquarters is next door. But why quibble? Next to her opulent residence are the sprawling parks and memorials commissioned by Ms Mayawati a few years ago. This is called “progress”, Mayawati style. Future home minister sahiba has her own home perfectly sorted!

Given her strategic importance in the upcoming elections, no politician wants to question, much less criticise Ms Mayawati for her OTT lifestyle. Her palace may just become the impressive showpiece for the next generation of party followers to droll and gasp over. Besides, as Ms Mayawati has frequently pointed out — don’t most of the spaces in and around Delhi belong to the Nehru-Gandhi family? Doesn’t India have far too many statues of Jawaharlal Nehru in almost every city? Why are important airports and flyovers named after Rajiv Gandhi? Ms Mayawati has a point. A big one. This is her moment. And she is making the most of it. I recall sniggering at those early statues of hers — the ones with a handbag slung on her arm. Her hair was coiffed in a “Memsaab” bob cut, and she was dressed in her trademark kurta-pajamas. Her admirers couldn’t get enough of those statues. Then came the elephants and parks. All of them highlighted her position within the BSP. At some point, “Mentor saab” Kanshi Ram was converted into a prop. He was downgraded and rendered incidental. Not for nothing is Ms Mayawati described as a mass leader — a symbol of hope. Her constituency sees nothing odd about their leader spending scads of money to create an opulent mahal for herself. They feel proud to see her grandeur and applaud the expenditure. Yes, it is their money. Yes, Ms Mayawati has plenty more stashed away. But as the loyalists say, “No money, no power.”


Around the same time that Ms Mayawati was busy showing off her new digs to the media, one more dalit worker, cleaning sewage pipes in Delhi, was brought out dead. He was the sixth man to die while cleaning up rich people’s excreta. Sounds awful? It IS awful! Somehow, the cruelty, the paradox, the irony… passed without comment. Another dramatic event was taking place in New Delhi, with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat launching an outreach programme to “explain” why the Sangh was established and its real motive. He talked about India’s diversity and described the Sangh as “the most democratic organisation”. His “Future of Bharat” address was like an eggless cake! He tried too hard to sound “egoless”. But in the bargain, he ended up sounding phony. Especially since he spoke of himself in the third person often enough. Something, his star protege Narendra Modi also does, much to the annoyance of audiences.


Oh yes. Mr Modi’s 68th birthday was sandwiched in between all these developments — making it a triple sundae treat. The PM should have practised his dexterity with a broom a little more before posting that video which showed him energetically sweeping dust into the bushes but leaving discarded paper behind. Pretty pointless! Making a clean sweep suddenly looked like a futile exercise as trolls poked fun of the man who launched the significant Swachchh Bharat initiative as soon as he took office. No matter. Mr Modi’s birthday inspired the likes of Mallika Sherawat and Kangana Ranaut to shoot special videos for the occasion. Mallika tried (and failed hopelessly!) to do a Marilyn Monroe (remember Monroe’s breathless and oh-so-oomphy “Happy Birthday” greeting to her lover President John F. Kennedy?). Kangana had pitched her greeting perfectly — dressed in costume for Manikarnika in which she plays Laxmibai, the heroic Jhansi ki Rani, Ms Ranaut, pretty in a pink sari, blushed and played coy during the short clip.
I was waiting for Priyanka Chopra’s video. But I guess Priyanka was busy feeding birthday cake to her newly-minted fiancé Nick Jonas, who turned 26 during the same week. Age clearly lost out to youth.


Rahul Gandhi, meanwhile, who has turned into an overnight Shiv bhakt, spent his time eating laddoos in Bhopal, and thundering that his party (errr… the Congress, bhaisaab!) would abolish the GST if the vote went in their favour! Hmmmm — a rash promise. But I guess nobody will hold him or his party to it. Mauka hi kidhar hai?

Lots of fun stuff coming up. As for me, my eyes are on Ms Mayawati. When a she-elephant goes on a rampage, even tigers hide!

Tags: mayawati, rajiv gandhi