‘Does your father eat people ?’ was one of the many questions that Obama was asked as a child. He faced discrimination not just from his classmates but also from his teachers who were curious about the tribe to which Obama belonged. Obama obviously did not forget those incidents as he vividly mentions them in his autobiography. But of course he moved on, graduated from Harvard Law School (on an education loan) and went on to become the President of his country at a time when the country is undergoing its worst financial crisis.
Obama’s rise will obviously inspire a lot of people in different parts of world. Under despotic regimes, it will give rise to yearnings for democracy. In India, Obama could also act as a source of inspiration for politicians who cannot think beyond their respective vote banks. Since the rise of Obama in US politics 22 months ago, the Indian media has been wondering whether India can too have an Obama. By an Indian Obama they mean someone from a minority or disadvantaged group who has the support of majority of Indians nevertheless. Naysayers caution that India is not US and so there would not be any Obama here. Little do they know racial discrimination has not yet been completely eradicated from the US and disparity between the Blacks and Whites is still big if not as big as it was some 40 years ago but that didn’t stop Obama.
Mayawati is often compared to Obama and there are some valid reasons to do so. She is a Dalit and not long ago Dalits were as marginalized and powerless as the Blacks in the US. In fact the ordeal faced by Blacks is nothing when compared to Dalits in India. Mayawati could become the Chief Minister of UP because of the support of upper castes and primarily Brahmins. This is equivalent to White conservatives of Deep South voting Obama which did not happen in this election (Florida is an exception) despite the fact that at the national level Obama got more White votes than John Kerry and as much as Bill Clinton got.
But the similarity ends right there. Despite winning votes from almost all caste groups and Muslims, Mayawati has not done enough as far as development of her state is concerned, to consolidate her support amongst various sections of the people. In fact she was more in news for a duel with the Gandhi family for Dalit votes which still remains Mayawati’s core constituency.
Obama on the other hand has no core constituency. In the 2004 Democratic Convention when he first said that there was no Conservative America or Liberal America but just the United States of America, it was not just an election rhetoric. This was proved when he quoted Lincoln in his victory speech saying, We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
Obama was not a black candidate running for the office of the President of America who happens to be very good. He was in fact a very good candidate who happens to be black. The Indian Obama wouldn’t be different.