Statues, Statues Everwhere! It’s Politics in India

If Mayawathi is Guilty of Unveiling a Series of Statues in Up, are Congress and Others are Far Behind?

The controversy raging over Mayawathi’s waste of public money in unveiling a series of statues of herself, her mentor Kanshi Ram and Dalit champion Dr. Ambedkar and scores of statues of Elephants, the symbol of her party. Even the Supreme Court was not happy with it and called for her Govt. explanation and justification of such wasteful expenditures.

The general complaint from the leaders and public alike is that Mayawathi had wasted public money on such unproductive purposes when so much was needed to be done to uplift the socio-economic status of the Dalit community in the state of UP. The emancipation of the neglected strata of the society, abolition of child labour, provision of mid-day meals to them, building of schools, colleges, and provide employment opportunities to the children of Dalits, should be prime in the mind of any Govt. that has been spearheading the cause of that community. But to everyone’s surprise, Mayawathi chose to waste around Rs.2000/- crores of public money on 62 and more statues. She and her party BSP made so many justifications for these statues, including that of Elephants, incidentally the symbol of mayawathi’s party.

The detractors and critics of Mayawathi were harsh on her, more particularly the Congress Party. They argued that if they have the statues of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajive Gandhi and memorial in their names all over India, it was not the work of the Congress party. But these statues were installed by the party workers, and in some places by the Govt. of the states in honour of these leaders who left a legacy. They were not alive when these statues came up. They questioned what kind of legacy either Kanshi Ram had or Mayawathi herself. As for Baba Saheb Ambedkar was concerned, the biggest tribute to him was the existence of the statute (not statue) meaning the Constitution of India, which he left behind for the people of this country.

As for the expenditure from the state exchequer incurred for installation of statues of the leaders and memorial are concerned, it is not new to India. Even during the period Rajas and Mughals, so many legendary buildings and monuments including the Great Taj Mahal, Lal Qila, other forts in the country, were built using state funds. But none had attempted to install the statues of self when they were alive and ruling nor their successors. What they left behind were monuments, sprawling Palaces, mountains of forts and buildings and museums of great collection of artifacts, one such was Salar Jung Museum in Hydrabad.

Congress too has a dubious distinction in this regard. Late Kamaraj of Tamilnadu, was the first to allow the installation of his statue near the Gymkhana Club in Mount Road, Chennai, when he was the Chief Minister of the state of Madras. When DMK came to power for the first time, they too installed the statue of late Anna Durai, during his lifetime, when he was the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, in the same vicinity in Mount Road, followed by the statue of Dr. Karunanidhi, the present CM, in the same row which was damaged and removed, during the violence following the death of late Dr. Ramachandran, film actor and CM of the state. So there were living examples of how one has aped the other, in the matter of erecting statues of the leaders and building monument in their name when they were very much alive and after they were dead.

All said and done, one wrong cannot be corrected with another wrong. In the case of Mayawathi, she exceeded all limits by going all out to build monuments and install statues of herself, her mentor and that of Dr. Ambedkar, not to speak of her party’s symbol, the Elephants. Were they necessary? Her supporters argue that they were necessary to remind the people that there were leaders who championed the cause of the poor Dalits, forgetting not many among the dalits have approved of such wasteful expenditure.

The State of UP is reeling under the strain of drought conditions. They urgently needed infra-structure so vital to development. They needed continuous supply electricity, potable water, and water for agriculture, schools, colleges and industries that would help their children to study and seek employment. Many of the children of Dalit community are school drop outs, for lack of food and finances. They ended up working as menials to make their living. They needed urgent attention. They need more hospitals, primary health centres and other infrastructure to help them lead a comfortable life.

Leaving aside all these urgent needs, wasting time and money on such unproductive purposes, is not an act of sanity. The amount that had been spent on the monuments and statues which runs into crores of rupees, was just sufficient enough to emancipate the whole Dalit community and provide them gainful employment, remove poverty and save them from hunger particularly in the wake of drought conditions in the state.

As many of the major political parties have indulged in such extravaganza in the past to decorate their leaders, it is unfair to single out Mayawathi in this regard. She may best be advised to devote more energy and money on uplifting the socio-economic conditions of the Dalits and other OBCs of whose cause she has been championing all along. They would be too happy to see around development in the state, rather than statues, statues everywhere in UP.

In the wake of misuse of state funds and machinery as in the case of Mayawathi, in the recent history, it is time to call a halt to such wasteful expenditures, particularly that of public money. Govt. should seriously think of issuing a directive to all state Govt.’s or enact a law that would prohibit the state from using state funds either to install life-size photos of some of the leaders, their statures or memorial. If anything to be done to any leader, the political party concerned should bear the burden of the expenditure. Perhaps a strong legalisation is needed in this regard. Hope the Central Govt. is listening. Jai Hind.

A.M. Jamsheed Basha
A.M. Jamsheed Basha is a Chennai-based columnist, political commentator, who writes on matters of importance, political, social and self-improvement.