Representing World: Obama and Mayawati

09Nov08

Following are the articles in various international dailies comparing Obama and Mayawati  …

India-A billion aspirations
From Reuters News

Will a Dalit, or “untouchable” become India’s Obama? That is the question being posed by some commentators in the India press after the United States elected their first black president.
One Dalit woman, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh known as Mayawati, is the first person to come to mind. Her astonishing rise from Dalit teacher to head of India’s most populous state has led to speculation she could be a prime ministerial candidate in 2009.Unlike the United States, which directly elects a president, Mayawati could win power in parliamentary system through negotiations between India’s political parties after the general elections, due by May.
There is evidence her Dalit-based party could become the third biggest party in the election, becoming a  possible kingmaker.

In one sense Mayawati could represent an even greater revolution than Obama in a country where Dalits have been oppressed for centuries and who still suffer the kind of discrimination that reminds oneself of the United States’ Deep South in the 1950s.On the other hand, as some commentators point out, Mayawati parades her caste to win over Dalits. Obama reached out across the race spectrum and did not use his colour. He campaigned mostly on policy. Maywati has made headlines as much for allegations of corruption and excess — such as erecting statues in her honour — as original policy ideas. I went to Mayawati’s birthday party in Lucknow this year. There, she had the various top public figures, from police chiefs and civil servants and politicians, finger feed her with cake. Most of them were upper caste.
Will she be asking the same of Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi after the general elections?

~

 

Inspiration from America
From Guardian UK.

Like the rest of the world, India woke up this morning agog at Obama’s victory. His speech as president-elect was relayed live on every one of the three dozen local language news channels this morning, displacing the usual blizzard of crime, stock market and cricket statistics.

Rolling interviews with beaming African-Americans, both voters and punters, probably meant that Indians saw more black people on their screen over breakfast than ever before.

That said, the US election chatter was numbing. There were vapid interviews with Indian journalists from America, chats with Bangalore geeks reminiscing about time spent in the US and Indian psephologists attempting to draw comparisons between the world’s oldest and the largest democracies.

In a country that sees itself as the third great democratic revolution (the US and France being the first two), Obamania knows no bounds. I spoke to the foreign editor of one of India’s biggest English newspapers who could barely draw breath as she relayed her near-spiritual experience of Obama’s victory at Delhi’s American centre.

There is a presumption that democracies are all built the same. India and America were both colonies and are now open societies with a free press, independent judges and rights enshrined in law. However the philosophies that underpin freedom are different in each nation. America, as the president-elect told Chicago’s Grant Park, is a place where “all things are possible”.

In India this is not true. People have yet to break the boundaries of gender and social standing in India and are largely unable to choose a life for themselves. The reality is that identity – be it caste, class, race or religion – is central to the character of India’s public life. It matters where you come from and who your father was in way that Americans would find bizarre.

Democracy in India is too immature to produce a President Obama. Although the country has had a Muslim nuclear scientist as president, a Sikh economist as prime minister and a Roman Catholic woman as leader of the biggest party, these are merely outcomes of patronage. All were picked to be leaders, and only Sonia Gandhi enjoyed a popular mandate to be prime minister, one she could not accept, as the Hindu nationalist party threatened to campaign against her on the basis of religion. It would be like white American politicians saying they could not co-operate with Obama because he was black.

Indians love the symbolism of Obama, and many compare their impressive Dalit politician Mayawati with him. In politics, symbols are important. A black man in the White House is powerful stuff, just as a Dalit woman as prime minister would be in India.

Such victories can be seen as a spur for minorities in democracies that see a conspiracy to keep them out of power. But images are themselves powerless. The future President Obama will not be able to stop everyday racism or immediately change the appalling incarceration rate of young black men in America. Neither can Mayawati stop Dalit atrocities in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where she is chief minister.

What is missing from India’s coverage of Obama’s electrifying election is the acknowledgement that there are escape routes in America and there are few in India. There’s still too much emphasis placed on everyone knowing their place in India. There’s a little too much reverence for the hereditary principle. Too little importance is given to the rights of the individual. The result is that India will have to wait many years before the country can claim to have an Obama moment.

~
Waiting for India’s Obama
From Economic Times India
 
 
Barack Obama’s victory is truly a victory of hope over experience. It is important, in this cynical world, that hope should stay alive, if not 
always float on the wings of soaring rhetoric, such as Obama’s. The question for us in India is if and when we will produce our own Obama.

It is natural for people to point to Mayawati, in this context. Natural, but wrong, entirely. They are similar, Obama and Mayawati, in that both bear the identity of the subaltern, of the oppressed, in their respective societies. And Mayawati also has a reasonable chance of becoming India’s prime minister, even if only for a truncated term. But there the similarity ends.

Mayawati started from humble origins, struggled to rise in life, to become the chief minister of India’s largest state, where social development remains stunted and caste prejudice does not have to clothe itself in thick layers of hypocrisy but is free to strut around, bristling with naked aggression. Obama, by contrast, had a life of privilege, going to elite schools and receiving the finest education possible. In this contrast, Mayawati’s rise is the more striking.

However, Obama’s electoral victory inspires hope in a way Mayawati’s rise does not. And this is because of the promise of change and redemption that Obama stands for, a promise that most Americans have bought into, as have the majority of Europeans, too, it would appear. Mayawati does not hold out any such promise. Hers is the grudged victory of realpolitik in a fractured polity. Americans have chosen Obama in an act of positive endorsement; Maywati’s rise to office rests on assorted groups’ negative preference for the lesser evil and opportunistic coalition building in the pursuit of power and pelf.

Mayawati has forged ties, some time or the other, with all major political forces in her part of the country. She has shared power with the BJP, and campaigned for Narendra Modi in the 2002 assembly elections that he fought on the basis of the communal polarisation wrought by the pogrom that preceded the polls. Her politics is no different from that of other parties, in that patronage is its active principle. But she has many admirers among people who do not belong to the downtrodden castes because she is a tough administrator who brings some semblance of order in a state that her predecessors in power had reduced to a lawless land. But her office rests on the support of a minority of society, who are able to wield power because the majority opposed to it is divided. Apart from her identity as a dalit, there is little to differentiate her brand of politics from that of her opponents, all of whom pursue power to enrich themselves by looting the exchequer and preying on the public.

Obama promises to be different. Afro-Americans are only 11% of the US population. Yet, a majority of US voters have overcome centuries of prejudice and racial hatred to endorse Obama, not reluctantly but with wild enthusiasm. The American people have shown that they are capable, as a collective, of seeing beyond a man’s ascribed identity. Indian voters are yet to prove anything of the kind. Obama’s victory is victory of the American people over their own weakness, a step forward in mankind’s slow march to that distant state of grace in which humans see, amongst the multitude of humans who come in different shapes, sizes and shades, sameness rather than difference. This is a source of hope.

Yet, it would be overambitious to see in Obama’s victory any radical reordering of American society. The emancipation of particular groups in society is tied up with emancipation of society as a whole. Change, as chanted by Obama and his supporters, accepts this, and that is the basis of the present unity across multiple divides in American society. But from chant to actual change is a huge leap that Obama might well fail to perform. Yet his success creates a role model that cannot but shake up the cultural ghettos in which most black Americans find themselves. And that would lead to realisation of the emancipatory potential that exists within the existing framework but is forgone.

An Indian Obama, too, would stand for change: for the collective and for its oppressed segments such as Dalits, forest dwellers and Muslims. That vision of change would combine deepening of democracy with radical diversification of occupations, breaking the correlation between caste and occupation, the very basis of caste hierarchy and associated social oppression. And nothing diversifies occupations as much as vigorous participation in a global division of labour brought about by globalisation. India’s Obama, in other words, would see political and economic reform as feeding into and reinforcing each other. And he/she would have the energy to mobilise people on the basis of such a radical vision.

We do not know what name India’s Obama would bear. All we know, thanks to Barack Obama, is that it would not be Godot, despite the gloom all around.



2 Responses to “Representing World: Obama and Mayawati”

  1. Dear editor,could you show the footage shown in NDTV where students are beating the fellow dalit studens in Ambedkar Law college where police did not enter the gate of law college.4 students are in critical condition.could you tell the world who are these student who are oposing the dr ambedkar photographs in posters.let dalits blood boilsto take the revenge fron hindus and their hindu led government.

  2. Dear Editor,
    Here is an other article on the above topic.”
    Obama and Mayawati: a Comparison in Contrast
    S.R.Darapuri
    email:srdarapuri@yahoo.co.in
    It will be apt to mention in the beginning that a comparison between Obama and Mayawati is not very appropriate because there is a world of difference between their personalities and deeds. But some over enthusiastic followers of Mayawati have started comparing them and are spreading the dictum that “if Obama can do it why cannot she?” They have started projecting her as the future Prime Minister of India. As such it becomes necessary to make an attempt to make a comparison between Obama and Mayawati.
    The first point of comparison between Obama and Mayawati is their social background. Obama is an African-American. His father was black and his mother was white. Mayawati’s both parents are dalits. But it is pertinent to note that during his electioneering he nowhere used his black identity to influence his voters. Throughout his election campaign he spoke about his policies and plans whereas in the case of Mayawati she has never spoken about her policies and plans. On the other hand her dalit identity is the starting point of her politics for emotional exploitation of dalits.
    The second point of comparison between Obama and Mayawati is their ability to mobilize fund for the party. Obama through small contributions raised a party fund to the tune of $650 millions but he deposited it in the party fund account and used it for electioneering. Mayawati also raised her property to the tune of Rs. 520 millions up to 2007 and further added Rs. 600 millions during 2007-08. But she did not deposit this amount in party fund account. Rather she deposited it in her personal and her family member’s accounts. There are also allegations of selling MLA’s and MP’s tickets at election time at competitive rates. It is worth mentioning that CBI has already prepared a charge sheet against her for amassing personal property worth Rs. 300 millions beyond her known sources of income.
    The third point of comparison between Obama and Mayawati concerns their policies and plans. As we know Obama fought the election on the plank of ” America needs CHANGE ” and has won it with this promise. He has promised to take America out of financial crises and reduce unemployment. AS regards Mayawti she has never made any promise to solve any public problem. In fact she does not have any such plan or program to solve the public problems like poverty, unemployment, lack of health infrastructure, drinking water, housing and illiteracy etc.
    The fourth point of comparison between Obama and Mayawati is their pursuit of political power. Obama has been elected as the most powerful President of the oldest democracy of the world. Mayawati has also been elected for the fourth time as the Chief Minister of the most populous state (Uttar Pardesh) of India. Obama has promised to use the political power for solving the problems facing the U.S. people whereas Mayawati has been accused of using it for self aggrandizement. Dr. Ambedkar had remarked that political power should be used for social progress. But Mayawati lacks such inclination even in the case of dalits who are her prime constituency. As a result of it the dalits of U.P. continue to be behind the dalits of all other states of India except that of Bihar and Orissa. In spite of her occupying the Chief Ministership for the fourth time U.P. continues to suffer from under industrialization and over all backwardness. As such she can be held responsible for the backwardness of U.P. as well as that of U.P.dalits to a good extent. According to one study U.P. has suffered regression during the last decade. It is noticeable that Mayawati has been in power since 1995 with some breaks in between.
    The next point of comparison between Obama and Mayawati can be in respect of psychological impact of their victory on their voters. In case of Obama his victory has exhilarated Blacks, Minorities and Whites also to good extent. In case of Mayawati dalits excluding intellectual section thereof and muscleman and moneyed men of higher castes are only exhilarated because the latter are especially the main beneficiaries of her position. Dalits have only the psychological satisfaction of having a Chief Minister of their own caste. They are totally deprived of all the material gains of power on account of corrupt and inefficient administration being run by Mayawati. Minorities, mainly the Muslims are highly skeptical about Mayawati because in her pursuit of political power she can make alliance with their staunch opponent and a communal party like B.J.P. as she had done thrice in the past.
    From a brief comparison between Obama and Mayawati it becomes evident that it is not very appropriate because there is a world of difference between their personalities and deeds. Rather it can be said to be a comparison in contrast. Even then if admirers of Mayawati are so anxious to make a comparison they should look for qualities like a vision, an urge for change, impeccable integrity and inclination to use political power for social progresses as exemplified in Obama. They must display mental honesty and proper courage to criticize her for her personal greed to amass wealth, lack of vision and unprincipled pursuit of power. She may also be dissuaded from wasting public money in creating memorials and installing her own statues in an effort to immortalize her. People are immortalized by their noble deeds and not by their statues. Dr. Ambedkar is the shining example of it. Actually dalits need a leader like Ambedkar but Mayawati comes no where near him.
    Obama is to be judged in the near future but Mayawati has already been judged.


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