Friday, June 26, 2009

Maya and her fascination for statues

It is common knowledge that Dalits in India were a oppressed lot (and still are), being treated as a political base by the Congress party. It was the emergence of Kanshi Ram, who resigned from his Government service and setup the Bahujan Samaj Party for giving the Dalits a voice. In our modern word, it is hard to believe that a politician would not have ulterior motives for doing what he did, and it was not easy to understand fully the acts of Kanshi Ram, but his actions (including the fact that he did not actively seek any political power for himself) lead to a suggestion that he did in fact not hanker for power for himself.
It was Kanshi Ram who started the process of making the Dalits believe that they could wield political power, and as a part of taking this process forward Kanshi Ram handed over the actual power wielding to Mayawati (wikipedia). It has been Mayawati who has taken the party much further in its quest to become a major political power in the country, starting with the critical state of Uttar Pradesh. It is also true that among the urban class, there is a certain negative feeling against Mayawati. Mayawati projects that as an upper class-lower class divide, and there may be some truth in that; at the same time, there is also a deep feeling of rejection against the image that Mayawati projects. She flaunts her corruption, she flaunts her grab of power, she flaunts her image of wanting to make it big (the images of big diamonds, asking partymen to contribute money for election tickets and for her birthday party), all of these are images that people do not normally see in politicians. It would be that she is like any other politician in corruption, but she does not hide it like others do.
This is further exemplified by her fixation on setting up statues for herself, something that no other politician in India would encourage while they are alive, to the degree that she does:

Opposition parties on Friday slammed Mayawati for unveiling statues and parks of Dalit leaders ahead of schedule, saying it was aimed at pre-empting the Supreme Court from putting these projects on hold. “The manner in which the Chief Minister hurriedly unveiled the statues and parks yesterday is indicative of her guilt at misusing government funds for party work,” Congress spokesman Akhilesh Pratap Singh said in Lucknow.
Mayawati had unveiled the 15 statues, which included that of BSP founder late Kanshi Ram and her own, and parks at a hurriedly-organised function in Lucknow on Thursday, nine days ahead of schedule.

Mayawati does this statue making and naming of parks to an incredible degree, naming them primarily for Kanshi Ram and for herself. The level to which she does this, and the money and effort spent on these efforts is remarkable. Naming objects after leaders is not new, given that the Congress names almost all things after Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi, but they do name projects; they do not destroy existing structures for this. Mayawati has destroyed existing green areas for setting up huge statues as for example in Noida, and tried to pull down sections of a stadium in Lucknow for the same reason. But who would stop her ? Do people expect her to spend effort on development, or to create memorials for herself ?

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 7:41 AM