Pioneer News Service | New Delhi

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s attempt to immortalise herself through statues erected across the State, could spell her trouble. A public interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court has called for immediate halt to such constructions and questioned whether political leaders could indulge in such self-glorifying acts at the cost of the public exchequer.

Two advocates of the Supreme Court, Ravi Kant and Sukumar, in their petition alleged that crores of rupees were spent on construction of statues of Mayawati, her political mentor Kanshi Ram and elephant, the election symbol of her party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Besides, several crores of rupees had been earmarked for future constructions to be carried out through the remaining term of Mayawati’s tenure.

Raising a vital issue of public interest, the petitioners said, “In a State like Uttar Pradesh which is part of the so-called ‘bimaru’ States and having a human development index among the lowest in the country… the expenditure of several crores of public money to fulfil the whims and fancies of an individual is against the principles of natural justice and fails the test of reasonableness.”

The petition stated that 60 elephant statues (elephant is the BSP election symbol) had come up in several places in the State at a total cost of Rs 52 crore. This, according to the petitioners, amounts to violation of Election Commission directive that prohibits political parties to inhibit voters and affect free and fair polls.

Referring to Mayawati statues alone, the petition suggested there is one measuring 18 feet Kanshi Ram Smarak Sthal along side Kanshi Ram’s bust each costing over Rs 47 lakh. At Bhim Rao Ambedkar Samajik Pariwartan Sthal at Gomti Nagar (Lucknow) three statues each of Mayawati and Kanshi Ram costing over Rs two crore is underway. The UP Budget for 2009-10 earmarked total cost of Rs 76 crores for Samajik Sthal, another Rs 35 crore for Parivartan Sthal and similar costs covering a slew of similar constructions planned across the State.

The petition said, “By putting so many statues of a particular leader of a particular party in public land, premise and parks devoids that place of being public place and makes it a private property of the said political party which amounts to grabbing of public property by misusing the powers of the State.”

Fearing that such actions, if not controlled, could lead to other leaders following suit which would be “detrimental to the democratic and welfare fabric of the Constitution.”

Amid works of self-glorification, the petitioner recalled the sorry state of affairs in the State with literacy rate at a pitiable 56 per cent, 59 million below poverty line families, 56977 villages out of 97122 villages electrified, and high neo-natal mortality and child labour instances. In such a scenario, the petitioner questioned the need of constructing the statues claiming that it served no public purpose.