Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati on Saturday appeared to take on her political opponents who have criticised the practice of visitors to her residence having to take off their shoes. This is perhaps the first time she has spoken about the issue in public.
“I have different sets of sandals for going outside as well as for indoors. I do not enter my residence with the sandals that are for visits outside,” she said at a press conference in Lucknow on Saturday.
The family members of gangster- turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari were barefoot when they were standing by the Mayawati’s side while joining the BSP on Thursday. Giving a clarification on the issue, Mayawati said she did not wish to humiliate the Ansaris as projected by a certain section of the media.
“My official residence (13 Mall Avenue) is also a memorial constructed to commemorate the contribution of BSP founder Kanshi Ram. It’s a sacred place revered by the Dalits and followers of Kanshi Ram. During the programmes organised by BSP, the people come here to pay obeisance to Dalit icon. They walk bare foot inside the memorial and it has been mandatory for all the visitors that they will not enter with shoes,” she said.
While she was addressing a press conference, the door to the house was kept open. Pointing inside, Mayawati said, “You can see the murals of the Dalit icons in the house. It’s not like any other house, but a venerated place. In Indian culture we respect our traditions and regulations.”
Ansaris have also followed the tradition and came barefoot into the house, she said.
Talking to HT a BSP leader said, “When Mayawati was chief minister, officers and visitors had to go barefoot to her office as well as her residence. The staff standing at the door used to tell the visitors to keep their shoes and slippers outside while entering the house. Even the clerics and religious heads, who came to meet her, had to go barefoot to the residence to meet her,” he said.
Another leader said, “She has dust allergy. Regular dusting of the office and residence is carried out. When she moved on the road, a water tanker went ahead of her vehicle to clear the dust. She ensured that along with her residence and office, the memorial too was kept clean.”
A political observer RK Gautam said, “The supporters of the BSP chief like her lifestyle. During her birthday, grand gala function was organised (in previous years) and she dressed like a Dalit diva. The leaders of the upper caste used to touch her feet to seek her blessings. For the Dalit community, she has become a symbol of social transformation and power.”