Has Mayawati mellowed at 57?

Lucknow, Jan 15 (IANS) No multi-crore currency note garlands, no multi-tiered cakes, no pomp and show... Has a spell out of power mellowed firebrand BSP supremo Mayawati? If the low-key celebrations Tuesday on her 57th birthday are any indication, 'Behenji' is now a changed person and so admit her close aides.

Dethroned by arch rival, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and with more than four of her ministers on the run from law enforcement agencies on different charges, senior Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders point out that a "personality change" for the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister was need of the hour, especially with a hostile regime and chances to recapture power "a good four years away".

Noting that the mercurial leader had realized that she had been cut off from the very people who brought her to power, a senior BSP legislator told IANS that in the last eight months, 'Behenji' (as Mayawati is known) had fallen back on the "traditional" mechanism of calling party faithful and office bearers on phone early morning.

This system was discontinued in her last stint as chief minister when "feedback" was largely left to a set of favoured bureaucrats. She is now particular to keep in touch with party rank and file and grants an audience "much easier than before", a functionary from Bithoor (Kanpur) told IANS.

Her interactions with media have also increased and in the first fortnight of 2013 alone, she has spoken to the local media thrice and hosted them for lunch. On one of the occasions, she stayed back for lunch and held informal chats with media persons - something new to most journalists who have been ignored by her earlier.

Talking to IANS some time back, Mayawati had admitted of "some gaps" and assured that "this would be bridged now and she would be available".

Less ostentation seems part of the new approach.

Celebration of her birthday in New Delhi and to keep it a low-key affair was a "personal decision" for Mayawati, said a senior party leader who clarified that the party units were however celebrating her birthday in various districts of Uttar Pradesh "as per their own faith and love for the leader".

Barring a full page advertisement by mafia-don-turned-politician Dhananjay Singh, a legislator from Jaunpur Sadar, the birthday celebrations in Uttar Pradesh were largely muted. Missing was Mayawati, wearing heavy diamond jewellery and cutting a many-decked cake.

The BSP supremo, a close aide said, spent her birthday quietly with her brother Anand, his wife and relatives at her New Delhi home. She also met some senior party leaders and took telephone calls.

In Uttar Pradesh, party leaders were asked to hold meetings and apprise the supporters of the "anti-Dalit" actions of the Akhilesh Yadav government, and senior party leaders tasked to interact with the media for the same purpose.

In Lucknow, Mayawati confidante and former minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui was the chief guest at a function held by the district unit at Jyotiba Phule Park which has been specially decorated for the day.

Maywawati's change of tack in celebrating her birthday as also in her interactions with party workers and media, many feel, was not only calculated but also essential if she wanted a "national role" for her post 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

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