From a nobody to an enviable position, the story of Mayawati is that of an enigma that continues to mystify Hats off to Ajoy Bose for skillfully tracing the trajectory of this woman from the bylanes of Delhi's down-market Inderpuri colony to the grandeur of the sprawling official residence of Uttar Pradesh's chief minister, from where she is now getting ready to knock at the portals of power in New Delhi.
For some reason, Bose repeatedly seeks to impress upon the reader that Behenji is not an official biography of the four-time CM. He also emphasises that without having interacted closely with Mayawati, he has drawn up her life sketch on the basis of feedback from people belonging to her inner coterie. While dwelling on her early years, the author narrates incidents that convey her instinctive handling of adversities. Mayawati's grit and determination to fight back has been well brought out at the very outset where the author narrates a few episodes from her childhood days.
Bose has been quite candid in conveying the relationship that Mayawati shared with her political mentor Kanshi Ram, the founder of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). He describes it as "an amazing relationship that has been the subject of much speculation and considerable gossip for over two decades". He goes on to add: "...their association was fundamentally political in nature, giving birth to the BSP and helping it grow to the formidable force that it is today.
But there is no denying that the two shared a strong emotional bond as well. And they did live in close physical proximity to each other from the day Mayawati moved into Kanshi Ram's room in Karol Bagh".
Bose has also gone into finer details of how Kanshi Ram and Mayawati never hesitated to strike or break alliances. And it also spells out how each time this took the BSP graph higher. Even as he praises them for their smart moves, he has not hesitated to criticise Mayawati for aligning with the BJP for the third time -- "against the backdrop of the horrendous bloodbath in Gujarat in 2002".
He observes that "despite her past record, Mayawati's overtures to the BJP when its leaders and activists were running amuck against Muslims in Gujarat, offended the sensibilities of even those who believe that no party can be regarded as a political untouchable". He adds that "the manner in which Mayawati pushed the communal flames of Gujarat out of her vision to single-mindedly pursue power is chilling". Yet, Bose wraps it up by giving Mayawati a few more brownie points and even praises her for her unscrupulous machinations.
It was during this stint that she added another feather to her cap -- humbling the 'invincible' feudal lord-turned-politician Raghuraj Pratap Singh a.k.a Raja Bhaiya. "By daring to take the proverbial bull by the horns and sending him to the ground in such a comprehensive manner, Mayawati added several notches to her already larger than life reputation as a gutsy leader," observes Bose.
He also mentions that "the spectacle of a 'Dalit ki beti' making a Thakur goon bite the dust reversed centuries and centuries of rape, murder and loot by marauding landlords of the upper caste, quite a lot of them thakurs". That this was another turning point in her life is spelt out in Bose's words when he writes: "...she became the stuff of folklore in Dalit villages and ghettos, acquiring an aura that would remain a great political asset in the future".
While dealing with her rise to power for the fourth time, Bose appears to shower praise after praise on Mayawati. He also seems to justify her fad for building memorials dedicated to her party icons and her political mentor. In fact as the book proceeds further, this becomes visible in enhanced doses -- especially as one embarks upon the second section of the book where it seems that the author finds a silver lining behind every dark cloud. Notwithstanding his caution in maintaining balance, he occasionally does go overboard.
In his oft-repeated references to the media's criticism of Mayawati's inimitable and erratic workings, what Bose overlooks is the fact that the same media have been equally critical of other CMs including Mayawati's sworn adversary Mulayam Singh Yadav on those very counts. Still, one cannot underscore the fact that the chapter dealing with the 'Rags to Riches' story frankly charts out the long list of Mayawati's wealthy acquisitions.