Statutes and statues: Mayawati gets Supreme Court nod for sprawling memorial park

December 4, 2010

Every powerful politician deliberates their legacy. For Mayawati, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state and one of the country’s most recognizable politicians, hers will be set in stone.

Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stone statues, to be precise.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) President Mayawati releases a manifesto, which she termed an "appeal", for the upcoming general elections during a news conference in the northern Indian city of Lucknow March 20, 2009. India will hold a general election between April 16 and May 13, election officials said on March 2, kicking off a mammoth process in which 714 million people will be able to cast their votes.  REUTERS/Pawan Kumar
Ridiculed by some quarters of the media for her seemingly exorbitant narcissism, she was granted the right to continue construction of a 34-acre memorial park by the Supreme Court on Friday, after staring down mounting criticism over the size of the so-called ‘memorial’ budget from the coffers of one of India’s poorest and least developed states.

Dubbed the “Untouchable Queen” for her success in championing the cause of Dalits, one of India’s former backward castes, and turning their support into numbers at the ballot box, Mayawati has ruled over India’s most populous state since sweeping to power in the 2007 elections.

Mayawati was summoned by the Supreme Court in June of last year after her decision to spend a reported $425 million of state funds on statues of Dalit heroes, including herself, was challenged.

In January, after reportedly shelling out 60 billion rupees ($1.3 billion) on statues and memorials throughout the impoverished state, the chief minister tabled a state government motion to form a 1,000-officer strong statue protection force.

India’s highest court, which is currently deliberating cases pertaining to the liability of the Prime Minister in a $39 billion telecoms scandal and the extent to which the country’s privacy laws can be wielded by multi-billionaire industrialists, passed down its verdict after over 12 months of consideration.

Environmental groups have expressed their distaste for the ruling as nearby residents bemoan the “absolute waste of money”.

Mayawati has reportedly said in response that the conventional wisdom of erecting statues of leaders posthumously is outdated.

With Friday’s judgement, it seems that unless voters lodge their complaints at the ballot box, Mayawati’s legacy drive will likely rumble on.

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