Mayawati is India’s anti-Obama: Newsweek (Lead)

April 21st, 2009 - 1:18 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama New York, April 20 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati features on the cover of Newsweek’s latest edition, with the US weekly drawing parallels between her and US President Barack Obama - in their rise to political heights though belonging to the bottom of the social ladder.
However, the weekly with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief’s photo on its cover design, says Mayawati is a “bigger underdog” and a “bigger threat” to the “established order than Obama was”.

While commenting her “suspiciously ostentatious fortune” and her “limited accomplishments” on behalf of the socially oppressed Dalits, whose cause she champions, the weekly has said her possible bagging the prime ministership would “ironically end up bolstering the caste system that has kept them (Dalits) in chains”.

She would “likely be a highly divisive national leader - an anti-Obama - and not only domestically”.

Mayawati became the chief minister of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh in 2007 on her own steam. She is now gunning for the country’s top job, or even as king maker, after the parliamentary elections in India get over in May.

“Her supporters are trying to position her as India’s answer to America’s youthful black president,” the weekly said.

It said the chances of her party actually winning a majority of the seats in parliament were unlikely. “But the likely outcome is that the two main parties, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will be forced to rely on coalitions. Mayawati’s followers hope she’ll emerge as kingmaker in the negotiations, with enough clout to grab the top job herself.”

“There are indeed parallels between Mayawati and Obama. Like America’s president, Mayawati is young - just 53 in a country where most political leaders are in their 70s.

“She is also an outsider who comes from a long-oppressed segment of society: the Dalits.

“Mayawati is both a bigger underdog and a potentially bigger threat to the established order than Obama was. While he benefited from a first-class education, she grew up in a shantytown with eight brothers and sisters and attended poor state schools.

“Obama enjoyed the backing of a long-established party, while Mayawati’s organization, the BSP, has been built up largely by Mayawati herself - and in a part of the world where women have made it to the pinnacle of power only as wives, widows or daughters of beloved male leaders.

“But unlike Obama, Mayawati has built her power on demagogic class warfare. As her national ambitions have grown, she recently began reaching out to upper-caste voters - but by playing on their fears of the upwardly mobile middle castes, not by appealing to their better, caste-free angels.

“She has accumulated a suspiciously ostentatious fortune, and is dogged by corruption charges. She is admired by many Dalits, but often more for her power and jewels than for her limited accomplishments on their behalf.

“Her victory, if it comes, may be seen as a great leap forward for India’s oppressed - but, ironically, will end up bolstering the caste system that has kept them in chains.

“Mayawati would likely be a highly divisive national leader - an anti-Obama - and not only domestically.”

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