New Delhi: The Election Commission's recent order to cover all statues of BSP supremo Mayawati and her party's symbol - the elephant - has drawn mixed reactions from the voters and political parties. While some political parties say it will give rise to several complications, voters seem to be not happy with the decision which they claim is just a wasteful expenditure of time and money.
Mayawati's party has called the move anti-Dalit, and termed the order as 'one-sided and against natural justice'. The CPI and JD(U) also questioned the wisdom behind the order.
Voters, too, questioned the EC's logic behind the decision, saying erecting and installing the statues have cost a lot of money and now the order to cover them will result in a lot of wastage.
"Government has already wasted a lot of money in making these statues. And, if they spend again in covering it, it makes no sense. It will destroy the beauty of our city," said a voter in Lucknow. A PIL was moved also in Allahabad High Court on Monday challenging Election Commission decision to cover all the elephant statues in Uttar Pradesh. The petitioner said that elephant is a symbol of Hinduism.
The EC had on January 7 ordered that all statues of Mayawati and her party symbol installed at several places in UP be covered until the Assembly poll were over in the state.
The Uttar Pradesh administration has started covering the statues of Mayawati and the elephant. The state has to cover up all statues by January 11 of this month, as per thee EC's deadline. Eleven statues and 77 elephant heads in Lucknow and Noida are being covered. These are over 10 ft high. In all, 300 statues have to be covered.
But the officials have a jumbo task at hand. Sources have said that the UP administration is running short of men and materials to carry out the order. Though some statues were covered in haste in Noida on Sunday morning, but the orders for the same arrived only on Sunday evening, officials said.
Authorities in Lucknow also said they have received the order, and draping would start from Tuesday and will be done in stipulated period given by the commission. However, it has not begun yet.
While the implementation of Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi's directive that all the statues must be covered by Jan 11 had begun Sunday evening, work began in real earnest on Monday morning.
"The task is huge and would require both the procurement of material and arrangement of manpower," said Lucknow District Magistrate Anil Kumar Sagar. "We will do our best to get the work completed latest by Wednesday evening."
The unusual order has sparked a debate across Uttar Pradesh, which holds assembly elections over seven phases in February.
While Samajwadi Party, Mayawati's bitter rival in UP, is thrilled over the Election Commission conceding their demand, the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party has taken strong exception to the EC move.
"This is the right step. After all, Mayawati's statues are all over the place together with those of elephants in the several parks and memorials created by her with government funds worth thousands of crores. How can those be kept open when we are not even allowed to put up posters or banners," said Samajwadi Party leader Shiv Pal Yadav.
BSP spokesperson Swami Prasad Maurya countered him by labelling the poll panel's move unfair.
"If elephants have to be wrapped up because elephant is also the BSP symbol and the Election Commission thinks the statues can influence voters, then why don't they cover every lotus growing in ponds and not allow any individual on the street to raise his hand," he said, referring to the Bharatiya Janata Party's symbol of the lotus and the Congress' hand symbol.
Some political analysts were of the view that the move could prove counter-productive and ultimately help Mayawati consolidate her Dalit vote bank.
"I would not be surprised if Mayawati tries and twists this to gain sympathy by raising her usual 'Dalit ki beti' bogey to impress upon her voters that she was being targeted simply because she was a Dalit and that tomorrow the opposition could even pull down all those statues if she was voted out," said veteran journalist PC Tandon.
One of the places where the covering of the statues has begun is the controversial Noida memorial park on the Delhi's outskirts that was inaugurated by Mayawati in October last year amid much fanfare.
The memorial, which drew much criticism from political parties across the spectrum, is meant to honour Dalit icons and has over two dozen huge statues of Mayawati, her mentor Kanshi Ram and BR Ambedkar, among others.
Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi had said the directive should be implemented 'at the earliest' as the matter related to the model code of conduct.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, then Prime Minister AB Vajpayee's photograph on billboards across the country on the Golden Quadrilateral National Highway were covered by cloth in line with the poll panel's directive.
(With additional inputs from agencies)