Unveiling, Veiling All at UP tax-payers’ cost
Whether it be the ceremonious unveiling of the mammoth costly bronze, marble and stone statues of Chief Minister Mayawati’s and elephants, the BSP party symbol, or the hurried veiling of these same statues on the order of the Election Commission of India, it is the poor tax-payer of the state who has to pay the cost. The monuments which cost the state exchequer thousands of crores on building them took a couple of crores covering them. The colour of the polythene selected to cover these structures had to be chosen with as much care by the EC order-bound government officials as the material used in their construction. Eleven larger than life statues of Mayawati and hundreds of elephants, elephant-shaped door handles, chakras and pillars, elephant fountains of different shapes and sizes were all covered. While the statues were covered using wooden and iron frames, the pachyderms had just sheets of plastic tied with ropes.
All the photo frames, calendars, hoardings, posters etc with Mayawati’s images were removed from desks and walls of the government offices in the state. Not taking any chances the authorities went even one step further and also closed the parks housing the statues to the public till the assembly elections. This also added to the loss these parks earned through the tickets’ money for visitors.
While the EC action has given Mayawati’s political opponents an opportunity to celebrate even before the elections results are declared, for Mayawati and her party men January 11, 2012, will remain forever a black-letter day. Before the sun set on this fateful day all the monuments built over the years with so much care and labour were covered up.
In 1993, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party formed a coalition with the Samajwadi Party. In 1997 and in 2002, Mayawati formed a coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party. But 2007 saw Mayawati coming to power in the state with a thumping majority. Thus, in her fourth stint, Mayawati let no one influence or obstruct her decisions on these parks and statues. This included construction and inauguration in October 2011 of the Rashtriya Prerna Sthal and Green Garden at the cost of Rs 685 crore.
IT IS NOT CRIMINAL VS. CRIMINAL IN BUNDELKHAND
Bundelkhand has got 20 constituencies which are going to poll on February 23 in the fourth phase of Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
Almost all political parties have fielded the candidates of criminal background for the elections of Uttar Pradesh in the Bundelkhand region. Some of them are facing trial for more than a dozen cases. Still it is not criminal v. criminal election because the precautions have been taken by the parties top brasses and the candidates themselves in order to avoid the direct fight between two persons having the high criminal background or enjoying the status of bahubali in the area.
While the Samajwadi Party repeated its sitting MLA from Garotha constituency facing 36 cases in the court, the BSP fielded a candidate from Hamirpur who is a former Member Of Parliament of the Samajwadi Party having criminal background. The BJP candidate from Jhansi is facing four criminal cases.
The Congress party finally succeeded in searching its candidates facing trial in the court. Party candidate from Babina is facing 33 criminal cases and the candidate from Hamirpur is facing 22 cases, and Lalitpur candidate is accused in fifteen criminal cases. The party candidate from Kalpi is the wife of a person who is on parole in a criminal case.
Recently, during the election tour of Bundelkhand, Rahul Gandhi had to face the angry Congressmen in Lalitpur and Babina constituencies who demanded for changing the candidates. The worst happened in Hamirpur where almost the entire Congress committee with about 400 Congress workers threatened to resign if the Party candidate who recently joined the Congress was not replaced. Mr Gandhi was taken by surprise as to how the observers had recommended the names of such candidates and therefore probably asked the senior functionaries to summon the observers immediately and to review the matter.
Due to the fear of her political opponents taking a lead to demolish these statues, in February 2010, Mayawati’s government approved a plan for a special police force to protect them. But surely even Mayawati did not have any inkling of what was in store for these structures. She never dreamt that one day, she being still in the saddle of Chief Ministership her loved statues would be blocked for public view.
It is no secret that Mayawati has fought many verbal wars over her parks and statues with her opponents who have come down heavily on her penchant for making herself immortal through her statues. She had time and again been accused of attempting to emulate the past Mughal emperors who had built monuments that made them immortal and their names have been preserved forever in history.
Mayawati has been charged with being anti-people and constructing costly marble and bronze structures in a state that is home to the country’s most poor. According to World Bank estimates, it is home to 200 million people—60 million of whom earn less than Rs 100 a day. The state also lags behind on social, literacy and development indicators. But India’s richest Chief Minister and the state’s youngest Chief Minister who is known for her whimsical and arbitrary dictatorial ways did not stop but went ahead with her building spree, the state officials bending backwards to follow her whimsical instructions at all costs.
Referring to the alleged rampant corruption in the state, the Congress national general secretary Rahul Gandhi, jestingly said that these stone elephants appeared to be eating money sent by the central government for the welfare schemes of the poor. But Mayawati had just brushed all these allegations aside and carried on with the work of constructing her statues in her own lifetime justifying that her mentor and founder of Bahujan Samajwadi Party, Kashiram had wished it so. She had also erected a number of statues of Buddhist and Dalit icons like Gautam Buddh, Bhimrao Ambedkar, Jyotirao Phule, Shahuji Maharaj etc. She justified this too by saying that no political party had ever built statues and symbols of Dalit icons or given them respect and their rightful place and that was why she was going all out to make amends and give her ancestors their rightful place by erecting their statues.
No wonder that the EC move has generated a lot of heat among Mayawati’s supporters. They are crying foul and terming the whole move as anti-Dalit and anti-BSP. They are accusing the EC of being partisan and ignoring the blatant display of their party symbols, especially the Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal, whose symbol of a hand and tubewell respectively are splashed all over the state. The Chief Election Commissioner, Mr SY Qureshi, however has justified the EC order on grounds of ensuring a “level playing field” for all parties. He said that the same order applied to all political parties, including the veiling of the statues of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. But operation cover-up seems to have generated a lot of diverse public opinion among the public.
“Covered or uncovered these monuments are a sheer waste of time and public money,”says Farzana, an NRI who was visiting her home town after three years. She seemed appalled at all the poor tax-payers’ money going waste. But driver Suneel Kumar, an SC, has a totally opposite view. “It is wrong, EC move is totally unjustified, if she has to win she will win whether the statues are covered or uncovered,” he says. Suneel is also hurt that EC ordered the masking of an elephant—Ganesh, a Hindu god. “This is not right, we worship Ganeshji. How can these be covered? he argues.
This is the sentiment that may cost Mayawati’s opponents dear. A shrewd politician it is likely that Mayawati will take this ‘veiling of God’ to her advantage. One cannot forget the UP’s 2007 assembly elections when Mayawati, whose party had been rated very low politically, came to power with a thumping majority. This time too she may surprise everyone. She may fan that sparkle of resentment that the veiling of the BSP icons has generated among the low caste, add to it the apparent lack of interest in other parties towards them and turn the entire thing into an inferno. The innocent BSP supporters, hailing from mainly the lowest of the lowest strata, may be brain-washed into believing that this EC move is directed at them. Mayawati may through this help galvanize the BSP supporters and lead an anti-Dalit movement that will pay her rich dividends at the husting.
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow