Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati’s fetish for statues shows no sign of weaning. A few days back, she appointed a special team of police to guard her various installations around the state citing the reason that they were highly probable terrorist targets. This comes at a time when there is acute shortage of policemen in the country.
The correct figure allocated for all these statues is not clear with estimates ranging from 1000 to 3000 crores and some reports stating 10000 crores. It might be noted here that her state Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of people living below poverty line and farmers frequently commit suicide.
In such a scenario, one can only wonder about what such blatant narcissism on her part will mean for the state. Mayawati has got all her priorities wrong. What do these statues do for the Dalits of UP, or India, whose cause she professes to espouse? She says that her monuments help in inspiring Dalits to reach greater heights. I doubt whether any Dalit is really dumb enough to look at a statue of Mayawati clutching her handbag and get inspired to reach ‘greater’ heights. Inspiration is something that comes from self realisation. She has argued in numerous press conferences that the money allocated to these statues cannot be used for improvement of health or education as it comes from the budget of the Ministry of culture and not the health or education budgets. Well, what culture is gained from these statues? The same money would be better utilised in some other culture related area like development of handicrafts, tribal art and other cottage industries. This would immensely help the weaker sections of the society in the state. Mayawati also claims that she is not the first leader in the country to commission statues of their mentors. What she fails to understand here is that two wrongs don’t make a right. Is this a race with the winner being the one who builds the highest statues? Building statues of icons like Dr BR Ambedkar, the father of our constitution is fine. But when you are commissioning your own pieces of metal, you have stepped over the line. She must realise the fact that she is way out of the league when compared to such icons.
It must also be noted that money is squandered by the government on a day to day basis. Most politicians irrespective of their caste/creed squander money. Do you have any idea how much it takes to maintain the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the largest residence for a head of state in the world? But the tone of the hue and cry raised is different when it’s Mayawati. The media should not be partial in such cases and raise the same hue and cry when it’s some other neta. Look how fast the Madhu Koda scam died down. On the other hand, the Mayawati statue issue is still making waves. One point that remains to be noted here is that Mayawati herself is largely responsible for all the attention she attracts; not because she is a Dalit leader but because of her overall character. Cutting huge birthday cakes, frequently shuffling IPS and IAS officers etc are all a part of the Mayawati package. This is where the media must strike a balance and bring out both the shades of a person. She must understand that such issues make the people really forget all the good work that she has done. The Mayawati government has also spent huge amounts on building schools and social upliftment schemes.
As for Mayawati, it’s high time she gets herself a good Public Relation officer and stop screaming about Dalit oppression at every chance she gets. Let’s take a leaf out of the Jews in Israel who did not keep crying about the holocaust and made Israel one of the most advanced and feared countries in the middle east, although mired in controversy. It’s time to stop crying about dalit oppression of the yesteryears and look forward to their upliftment. The future holds the key. Well, one thing I can say for sure is that providing Caste based reservation in institutes of higher education is not an answer to this problem. I will be sharing my views on this topic soon.
The writer is the Andhra Pradesh correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz.