SC: Mayawati should reimburse Rs. 2,600cr spent on elephant statues
On Friday, the Supreme Court said that it was of the view that Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati should reimburse the public money that was spent installing statues of herself and BSP's symbol during her tenure as Chief Minister. However, the apex court added that this was a prima facie view, and the final call would be taken on April 2. Here's more.
During Mayawati's tenure as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh from 2007 to 2012, her government had built several Dalit memorials and statues, including of BSP founder Kanshi Ram, herself, and the BSP's elephant symbol. These statues and memorials had been built across Lucknow, Noida and a few other places in the state, and had cost the state exchequer a whopping Rs. 2,600cr.
The UP culture department's budget for 2009-10 showed that in 2008-09 alone, Rs. 194cr had been allocated for and entirely spent on building statues of "great leaders".
However, an advocate had challenged the move in the Supreme Court, stating that public money could not be used for building statues of one's own self or for promoting a particular political party. It was during a hearing of this petition that a SC bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that Mayawati should reimburse the state exchequer for the money spent.
"We are of the tentative view that Mayawati has to deposit the public money spent on her statues and party symbol to the state exchequer. We will have it for final disposal on April 2," said the SC bench.
As it stands, Mayawati and former arch rival, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, have joined forces to fight the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. With this in mind, the BSP asked the Supreme Court if this case pertaining to statue construction could be heard after the elections in May. To this, CJI Ranjan Gogoi said, "Please don't compel us to say something which we don't want."
Such was the prevalence of Mayawati and elephant statues across UP that the Election Commission, in 2012, ordered the covering of all Mayawati and elephant statues across the state to provide a level playing field for all parties contesting elections.
Separately, a complaint from the vigilance department had also alleged a 'memorial scam' in which the UP government had suffered Rs. 111cr in losses for the construction of statues and memorials under the Mayawati government. Acting on it, the Enforcement Directorate had filed a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED indicted 199 individuals, including Mayawati's close aides.