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Mayawati builds bridges with ‘manuwadi’ media

The BSP chief has learnt the importance of talking to journalists

Published: 10th December 2016 10:36 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th December 2016 10:02 AM   |  A+A-

BSP chief Mayawati

LUCKNOW:  Firebrand but reticent and hardly media savvy. That was Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati for the world outside her closely guarded confines. However, as the poll cauldron heats up in Uttar Pradesh, the Dalit leader is undergoing a never-before metamorphosis—communicating with the media more than her rivals and trying to put her viewpoints across the spectrum of caste and religion.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move has given her the ammo to attack the BJP, the party which is a big threat to her non-Jatav vote bank in Uttar Pradesh. She is equally belligerent on CM Akhilesh Yadav, calling him a babua (kid) in politics. From surgical strikes to triple talaaq and from the Samajwadi Party’s internal feud to alleged atrocities on Dalits, she is much more vocal now, addressing press conferences daily and taking questions from journalists.

For a leader who has summarily used the term ‘Manuwadi Media’ to keep away unless political exigency forced her to communicate, and who is known to be holding one-way press conferences, this is a remarkable change. Recently she spoke ‘unofficially’ to some media houses and allowed it to be published, probably for the first time in nearly a decade. She told journalists that nobody writes her speeches and she drafts them. Besides, BSP and the frontal Dalit organisations have taken to social media in a big way to project the party and their leaders.

Dalit thinker and Professor Vivek Kumar of JNU says it was her mistrust for mainstream media that kept her away.
What has changed now? “Due to her initial mistrust as she was often misquoted, Mayawati stopped talking to the media. She would read out a written text at press conferences so she wasn’t misquoted. This way, she gathered confidence that now media can’t blow her statements out of proportion and context,” says Kumar. “A growing number of educated Dalit youths have found social media a potent tool to project her in positive light. This has made the party get on to social media too,” said Kumar.

A senior BSP leader echoed Kumar. “Earlier she used to say that we don’t need the media as our voters don’t read newspapers. But now she is projecting herself as a leader of all castes and communities rather than just Bahujan (Dalits). So it has become imperative to become more forthcoming and media savvy. It also reduces the risk of being misunderstood,” he said.



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