The Hari Putar Dialogues - 64
(BBC News ; New Delhi ; 29 June : The politician Mayawati has been accused of wrongly using public cash to make statues of herself and her allies, in a case at India's Supreme Court. The court gave Mayawati, who is chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, four weeks to respond to the petition. She has dismissed the case as a political conspiracy against her. The case was brought by a lawyer who accuses her of wasting public money and space to build vast statues in the interests of self-glorification. In the last week alone she has unveiled 15 new memorials, including two of herself. The BBC's Rahul Tandon in Delhi says that since coming to power Mayawati, as she is usually known, has constructed 50 huge figures of herself, her political mentors and of elephants - the symbol of her party.)
Putar: There is a report on the BBC website about a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court against the UP Chief Minister Mayawati accusing her of using public cash to build statues of herself and her political mentors.
Hari: Why is she having her own statues built and why are people objecting?
Putar: It's a lot of money that is being spent ' in the region of hundreds of crores.
Hari: My God! Really?
Putar: Yes, according to reports the PIL in the Supreme Court points out that spending over Rs 1,200 crores on statues was irresponsible considering that UP had the largest population -- 59 million -- of people below the poverty line.
Hari: What does she have to say about that?
Putar: Her counsel points out that the State assembly had duly sanctioned all the expenditure on the statues and renovation of parks and that nothing was being done without proper sanction. He also alleges that nothing is done about wasteful expenditure by high castes. He points to sprawling Teen Murti Bhawan in Delhi, which is a memorial for the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The value of the land alone, the counsel argues, is worth five thousand crores.
Hari: Yes, but that is a memorial. It's in memory of Jawaharlal Nehru.
Putar: Well, Chief Minister Mayawati also had statues of other Dalit leaders erected. She argues that Dalit leaders have been neglected.
Hari: That's possible, but who has made these statues?
Putar: According to the BBC report her favorite sculptor is a man called Shravan Prajapati. This man has earned millions of rupees in making these statues. From Prajapati, he has become Crorepati.
Hari: But this for him is about money not art, is it? Why is it that it's not often that great sculptors create marble statues of famous politicians? Michelangelo for instance did the statues of David, and Venus de Milo. Those are works of art.
Putar: Those were beautiful and challenging bodies ' in the sculptor's imagination. Our politicians generally don't have such interesting bodies. Many of them are just round shaped. Like a tub of lard. Not very challenging material for a sculptor. The good thing is that parks have been created.
Hari: So we can conclude that Mayawati is an environmentally friendly Chief Minister?
Putar: On the other hand it may have been first decided to have statues of her made and then decided that parks were needed where they could be installed. Children will enjoy seeing the marble elephants though.
Hari: Is the Chief Minister a lover of animals then? Is that why marble elephants also been installed?
Putar: Not sure of how much she loves parks and animals but sixty marble elephants have been installed at a cost of 62 crores. The PIL in the Supreme Court argues that this is against election law because the elephants are the party's symbol.
Hari: I know one creature that is going to be very happy with all these statues and parks.
Putar: And who is that?
Hari: Birds will be very happy. They like the park environment and they like to sit on statues.
Putar: And give them their blessings.
Hari: Exactly. The statutes bless the park visitors and the birds bless the statues. But tell me, isn't it the practice to erect statues of dead people? And Mayawati is still very much alive.
Putar: That's true.
Hari: Why do you think that is the convention?
Putar: I can think of at least two reasons. Firstly, if you build a statue of a living person, there is a superstition that the person may die. It's like tempting fate.
Hari: Interesting thought. Okay, what's the second reason?
Putar: The second reason is that it smacks of arrogance. Leaders are not supposed to praise themselves, are they? The wish to erect some one's statue should emanate from other people, not be your own decision. In Mayawati's case she herself decided that her own statues be erected. Tell me something, Papaji.
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: Mayawati argues that it is an outdated convention to have statues made of dead people and not living persons?
Hari: Well, that is an argument. Consider Madame Tussauds.
Putar: Yes, but in Tussauds it is a Committee that decides who are the people who are eminent enough to deserve a wax model. It also makes sense because the wax model is supposed to look just like the real person. The artists even go to the celebrity in question to measure him up so that they can try and get an exact resemblance.
Hari: That's true.
Putar: Mayawati claims however that she is a modern thinker who is not bound by traditions and conventions, which require a person to be dead before a statue of the person can be made and installed.
Hari: So the lady claims.
Putar: Or is it that she's got her own statues made and installed because she is not sure that once she's gone anyone else will propose a statue be erected in her memory?
Hari: I don't know, Putar.