We find throughout the course of history, various cities, parks, monuments, and of course, statues of people (or named for them) who are well alive and active. For political, social or scientific personalities in the last stage of their lives, this can be an honourable way to show respect and commemorate their lives’ work, but what about a person who goes about erecting huge memorials and statues, which are often of herself? That can simply be termed as the megalomania of a demagogue.
Precisely this megalomania in brass and sandstone spans Uttar Pradesh, masquerading in the form of Dalit (Depressed classes) memorials. Built by Mayawati, who is paraded as the ‘Queen of Dalits’, which she is arguably not, and as the messiah who would work for their upliftment, these memorials can find no place in Indian history, except as a terrible waste of the exchequer’s funds.
Located in the Hindi heartland, Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state, with a per capita income of Rs 23,132 as compared to India’s Rs 44,345. 1000 to 2000 crore rupees have been spent by the Uttar Pradesh Government in erecting these monuments and statues, and an upwards of 80 crore rupees will be spent every year, in their upkeep.
Dissenting voices against these actions are often suppressed by claimants, that this was the desire of Kanshi Ram, the founder of Mayawati’s political party, and the money for this expenditure was from the budget of ministries not related to education or healthcare, where possibly, the money could have been better spent. If we start to abide by the wishes of dead sectarian political leaders by transforming the landscape of a state and misusing power, India would be a chaotic place indeed, considering that there are hundreds of regional parties like that of Mayawati which periodically come into power. And since the memorials utilize the funds allocated to others, we need a serious consideration of the budget, its ramifications and subsequent reforms that are so essentially needed, as illustrated by these justifications.
What these huge monuments that dot Uttar Pradesh’s landscape will do, is provide a constant reminder of the ‘leaders’, who ‘shaped’ the state’s past, present and will do so in future, and hence will subliminally affect the public mind.
The shapes of colossal elephants, the symbol of Mayawati’s party (Bahujan Samaj Party) look down upon the people sedately in Lucknow, Noida and the rest of the state, while secretly trumpeting the mark the Mayawati has made on the state. The raised per capita income and the growth rate of the state finds a secondary place, in comparison to these gleaming bronze statues and gigantic sandstone figures, which have attracted ire throughout the country. It is a mark of her true ascent of power but it may mean a hazy future for her PM-dreams, as a display of her indelicate attitude and the popular opinion about her immoderation. It’s a victory for now, but a pyrrhic one.