NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Election Commission to decide whether a petition seeking derecognition of BSP’s election symbol can be maintained. The complainant sough derecognition of Bahujan Samaj Party’s ‘Elephant’ symbol alleging misuse by UP chief minister Mayawati, under her statue project which cost Rs 2,600 crore. “We make it clear that EC will take its decision on the preliminary point of maintainability of complaints,” said a bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia, Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar.

The court did not agree with the submission of EC’s counsel Ashok Desai. He said that the poll panel can straight away go into the allegation of violation of the electoral law on the use of party symbol for which the commission had sought details, including documents, from the state government on the construction of statues of elephants. The bench said, “We want to see the decision of the EC whether the complaints are maintainable or not,” adding, “suppose the EC comes to the conclusion that the complaints are not maintainable, then there will be no need for asking for any material.” If EC holds that the complaint is maintainable and passes its test of validity, then the poll panel will be at a liberty to call for material from the state government, the court said.

The court, however, said it was keeping the matter alive and would pass an appropriate order after examining the validity of the commission order on the maintainability of the complaint. The complaint said that the installation of elephant statues under the project at various parks in the state at cost of public money was violative of the election law.

It was filed before the EC after the apex court had asked Advocates Ravi Kant and Prakash Kumar Singh to approach the election commission. They had filed a PIL seeking derecognition of BSP’s election symbol for its alleged misuse by Mayawati. The PIL also sought direction of the court to restrain the Mayawati government from installing statues of Kanshi Ram, the founder of BSP, herself and her party’s symbol under the project in the state. It also sought a CBI inquiry into the alleged misuse of public funds by the state government in the name of implementation of the project.

Earlier, EC had said that the government was not supplying information regarding the number of statues of elephants and of Mayawati which were installed at public and private places using public funds between 2007 to 2010, along with photographs and video recordings of such statues.

The commission had said the state government, which at first had stated that it was collecting information, took a “strange” stand later and questioned its jurisdiction in seeking such details. The EC then approached the apex court seeking its direction to the state government to supply the information. The state government had maintained that the statues were not the replica of the election symbol “elephant” allotted by EC to BSP as the party’s symbol shows an elephant with its trunk lowered while the statues have the trunk raised in a welcome posture which are found in many religious and historical places.

The petitioner’s advocates had claimed that the total money used by the Mayawati government from the state budget for 2008-09 and 2009-10 for such projects was Rs 2,600 crore. According to the information given by the Lucknow Development Authority, the nodal agency entrusted with the task of execution of the project, the government spent Rs 3.49 crore on Mayawati’s eight statues installed in five memorials coming up in the state capital. The government has spent another Rs 3.37 crore on seven statues of Kanshiram to be installed in the memorials.

The information given in response to a query under RTI, the agency further said that 60 statues of elephants — the election symbol of BSP — were being erected in these memorials at cost of Rs 52.20 crore. Each of these statues together with their granite covered pedestals, costs Rs 87 lakh. LDA further said that the largest statue of Mayawati and Kanshiram were installed at Pratibimb in Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajaik Parivartan Stahl (Ambedkar Memorial), Gomti Nagar. These two bronze statues are 24-feet high and each costs Rs 1.55 crore. It consist of 3 other statues of Mayawati — one 18-foot-high bronze statue, costing Rs 47.25 lakh and two 9-foot bronze statues of Rs 23 lakh. Two bronze statues of Kanshiram, costing Rs 58.25 lakh were also installed there.

Another 18-foot bronze statue of Mayawati, costing Rs 47.25 lakh, was installed at the Kanshiram Memorial, a 12-feet bronze statue of Rs 20.25 lakh at Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Prateek Stahl, one 7-feet white marble statue of Rs 9-lakh at Gomti embankment near Ambedkar Memorial and another 15-feet bronze statue of Rs 47.25 lakh at Kanshiram Sanskritik Sthal, located at Kanpur Road. An equal number of statues of Kanshiram, of same size and same cost, are installed in these memorials adjacent to the statues of Mayawati, according to LDA.