July 25, 2020
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Mayawati says she is a victim of a 'Manuvadi press'

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That relations between the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the media have always been less than cordial is evident from the title given by party leaders to the press: Manuvadi media. But last week they hit rock bottom when a mob led by BSP leaders Kanshi Ram and Mayawati ran amok in front of the office of Dainik Jagaran, a leading Hindi daily in the state. The provocation: a story about Mayawati's supposed 12-year-old daughter. It was based on an interview with Dina Nath Bhaskar, once a close confidant of Kanshi Ram and a former minister, who was compelled to resign and finally sacked from the party after differences with the BSP high command.

Mayawati, who often flaunts her unmarried status as a sacrifice for the Dalit cause, was furious at the allegation. Along with Kanshi Ram, she held a mammoth public meeting at Lucknow's Begum Hazratmahal Park and imperiously gave the offending newspaper "two minutes" to produce her supposed daughter or face the wrath of BSP workers. The result was the attempted attack on the Jagaran office, with the police resorting to a lathicharge and teargassing on a scale not seen in Lucknow in recent times.

Two days later the BSP issued instructions to all 68 district units in the state to adopt resolutions by January 1, 1996, swearing to sacrifice "everything to make Mayawati chief minister of the state to ensure that the culprits are brought to book by bahenji's orders". The fight against the "upper caste dominated media" is fast becoming the new cause celebre to galvanise BSP workers after the demoralisation which set in after the party lost power in the state.

In a self-contradictory posture, Mayawati never stops fulminating against the designs of the "Manuvadi media" but says, "We have cautioned our bahujan samaj against the designs of the Manuvadi press; now you go on writing whatever you want. It hardly affects us." She also denies that BSP workers took the law in their hands. She says Kanshi Ram first approached Uttar Pradesh Governor Motilal Vora and asked him to take action against the culprits. "A mere signal from me would have destroyed the entire press," she boasts. "If we had attacked the newspaper, you would not have found even a single brick out there." And of course, she blames the Manuvadi mentality behind the news item. "Ever since I became chief minister, the Manu-vadi society could not digest it; the press became hostile and started publishing distorted stories about the BSP." She defends the anger of her party workers: "The entire bahujan samaj considers me their ideal sister and therefore their anger against the newspaper is justified. What will you do if your sisters and daughters are insulted?"

But the Jagaran is unrepentant about the news item. Says Vinod Shukla, resident editor of the newspaper: "Suppose Arjun Singh says something about Narasimha Rao, should we publish it or not? When Mayawati used to abuse our gods, called Mahatma Gandhi shaitan ki aulad, we published that also. As a newspaper we had to show what kind of a chief minister we had."

Adds Narendra Mohan, the Jagaran's proprietor-editor: "Whether Mayawati gave birth to a child or not can be established through a medical examination. Moreover, we have not written about Mayawati's bedroom scenes, what we published were allegations made by a responsible ex-minister of Mayawati's cabinet."

For his part, Bhaskar vehemently denies having commented on Mayawati's personal life. "It is they who brought their personal lives into party matters," he claims. "The first thing a party cadre is taught is that Kanshi Ram and Mayawati have preffered to remain unmarried to serve the bahujan samaj. That is a blatant lie. Let the time come, I will prove it in court."

This kind of mud-slinging between politicians has become a routine affair in Uttar Pradesh. In June, Mayawati herself accused Mulayam Singh Yadav of trying to buy over Dina Nath Bhaskar who is now spitting fire on her. And newspapers, wittingly or unwittingly, side with one party or the other either for news or views. Even this time round, a section of the Lucknow press is lobbying to black out the BSP, a move which has not been initiated against any other party. "What Mayawati says about Manuvadi media is not entirely incorrect. A section of the press is heavily biased against the BSP," says a local journalist. That, of course, is small consolation for the former chief minister.

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