VOTE BANK POLITICS
Issues over Mayawati’s memorials apply to others
It has taken some time coming, but finally it has. The Supreme Court has taken cognisance of BSP chief Mayawati’s profligate ways. It asked her to return funds used for building parks and statues when she was Uttar Pradesh chief minister between 2007 and 2012. The BSP leader has countered that these memorials were constructed to honour towering Dalit personalities. The case, which has come up thanks to a petition filed by an advocate in 2009, has sought to restrain the state and the BSP from misusing public funds for political gains. Party leaders have been at pains to defend the use of elephants, BSP’S poll symbol, in parks and memorials. Whatever the outcome of this particular case, surely there has to be some accountability over the memorial construction drive, which has come to possess politicians in this country. Precious public money cannot be spent on building memorials to politicians and icons, who in their own lifetimes revealed no desire to be remembered thus. Mumbai has been in the throes of a raging debate about proposed mega statues of Bal Thackeray, a giant statue of Chattrapati Shivaji in the Arabian Sea and even late BJP leader Gopinath Munde. In addition, there is the demand for the construction of a memorial for Babasaheb Ambedkar. Some questions have also been raised over the mammoth Statue of Unity in Gujarat. Just how patently political and vote gathering these moves are can be gauged from the fact that there are already a plethora of public buildings named after these personages. No political party has thought worth its while to restore Shivaji’s iconic forts along the Sahyadri mountain range and in the Arabian Sea. And despite all the lip service to Ambedkar, there exists no world class institute named after one of the greatest 20th century scholars and the father of the Indian Constitution.