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Chanakya in Mayapur

india Updated: Jun 02, 2007 03:53 IST
Highlight Story

Scan the published photographs of Mayawati after her Bahujan Samaj Party swept to power in Uttar Pradesh. There’s one very ubiquitous face — that of Satish Chandra Mishra — in almost eight of 10 frames!

Try tracing this man over the phone, and what his staff tells you may well be his phone’s ringtone: “He’s with the CM, call later.”

Acknowledged as the architect of Mayawati’s social engineering experiment in Uttar Pradesh, Mishra is generally ‘on silent mode’ in the CM’s company. But, unlike most other members of the inner circle, Mishra is free to interrupt her. Now, that makes him special.

If beautician Poonam Sagar gave Mayawati the much-discussed physical makeover, Mishra can be credited with giving Mayawati the mental makeover. Even her critics acknowledge that she has mellowed dramatically in her current avatar as chief minister.

If Mayawati manages to successfully replicate the Sarva Samaj experiment in other states, Mishra’s role in evolving her as a better negotiator cannot be underestimated.

Courting influence

The 55-year-old Mishra (born November 9, 1952 in Kanpur) comes across as a suave and affable person. His father, Tribeni Sahai Mishra, was a judge at Allahabad High Court. After graduating from Kanpur, Mishra moved to Allahabad University to graduate in Law.

He was elected president of the State Bar Council in 1998. In 2002, when Mayawati took over the reigns of the state, Mishra was appointed Advocate General (AG). In September 2003, he resigned as AG after the BSP government fell, but remained loyal to the party. In January 2004, he was appointed national general secretary of the party. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in July 2004 and elevated to the post of deputy leader of the BSP in the House.

Mishra has fought litigations for several political parties for 31 years. But the BSP witnessed his genius earlier this year when he battled against a battery of lawyers engaged by the Samajwadi Party in the Supreme Court to have 44 BSP legislators disqualified.

Caste and mould

"When she offered me the job, I told her I was a Brahmin. She was surprised and said it was a misconception that she was against Brahmins or high castes and that she strived to level them," says Mishra. This must have been the time when Mishra could see the potential to broaden the BSP base.

The metamorphosis from ‘bahujan samaj’ to ‘sarva samaj’ wasn’t easy given the rigid caste configuration in the state. Mishra himself travelled from constituency to constituency for four months, mobilising Brahmin support for the Dalit party.

He got his acolyte Nakul Dubey to organise Brahmin conventions in major towns across Uttar Pradesh. To guard against inner-party fragmentation, Mishra advised his boss to skip the civic elections held on the eve of the Assembly poll. The idea was also to conserve energy.

The BSP effectively utilised the time, fanning out in rural areas, assessing public response to the new formula. Mishra’s own persuasive skills were tested as Mayawati had fought earlier battles spouting inflammatory slogans like, Tilak, taraju aur talwar, inko maro jootey chaar, targeting Brahmins, Baniyas and Rajputs.

But Brahmins responded positively to the new slogan, Haathi nahi Ganesh hai, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hai. On Mishra’s initiative, the party constituted Bhai Chara Banao committees in each district to build bridges between the upper, backward and scheduled castes. The committees not only spread Mayawati’s message among various castes but also brought them together on a single platform.

On the role

Interestingly, Mishra didn’t find a berth when Mayawati took oath with the first batch of 49 ministers on assuming office. But, her ‘Man Friday’ was inviting snide remarks all over the place.

“He is the new chief minister’s Amar Singh,” quipped a wag. Some said he wanted to be the deputy chief minister. Others recalled the fate of Rashid Alvi, former Lok Sabha member and spokesman of the party who earned Mayawati’s lavish praise as a close loyalist but was expelled when she perceived him as a threat to her primacy. Mayawati put a quick end to all speculation by inducting Mishra into the Cabinet as minister-without-portfolio. This also silenced old party loyalists who felt Mishra wasn’t accountable for the power he enjoyed.

In fact, when Mishra was asked about his prospects after the party’s ascent to power, he said: “My views are no different from Behenji’s. It is for her to decide my role.”

On the other hand, praising Mishra, Mayawati said he had not only meticulously put together the party strategy but also ensured that it was executed properly all the way. The result was before everyone, and the BSP soared to power with Upper Caste support. “Hamari jeet mein Mishraji ka amulya yogdaan hai, (Mishra’s role in our victory is invaluable),” confessed Mayawati.

Although the BSP has won 207 seats to gain majority in the House, Mayawati cannot count on many to counter the array of brilliant speakers in the Opposition benches. Mishra is her trump card for such odd situations in the House.

She will also need this falcon on her arm as the party’s interlocutor in Delhi if she has to project the BSP’s new image among the elite. Mishra has played his role to the hilt. Now, his new charge as minister in UP clashes with his Rajya Sabha membership. Mishra will have to get elected as legislator and give up his Parliament membership.

There is also a school of thought within the party that Mishra may not be exposed to elections and would be inducted into the Legislative Council. But the party is placed very poorly in the Council with just 12 members in a House of 100.

Surely, this is one flightplan everyone’s tracking in Uttar Pradesh.