Connect to share and comment

A guide to the dynamic economics, politics, and culture of the world's most populous region.

Statue controversy continues for lower caste Indian leader

What's behind an Election Commission order to tarp statues of Mayawati?

Government workers in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh are working double-time to try to tarp over some 100 statues of the reigning chief minister and her party's poll symbol, the elephant, reports the Hindustan Times.

This is going to be a mammoth task for the officials in Uttar Pradesh as there are ten Mayawati (each about 15 feet high) statues and 90 statues of elephant installed in 10 memorials and parks in Lucknow and two Mayawati statues and 52 elephant statues at the Noida park that will need to be covered. ... "A huge amount of water proof covers is required. There are more than a hundred life-size statues of elephants," one official said.

But what's behind the costly and (one suspects) futile endeavor?  Are the voters really so stupid as to be swayed to vote for UP Chief Minister Mayawati just because they glimpse a statue of her on the way to the booth, asks FirstPost?  Probably not.  And while the Election Commission may well be adhering to the letter of the law in ruling that the statues should be covered since state funds are not allowed to be used in campaigning, it seems only a step away from closing down highways built by the administration and stopping jobs programs it initiated just to make elections "free and fair."

Moreover, Mayawati has been under fire for building these monuments for the better part of a year now in a controversy that has polarized Indians along caste lines.  And that could mean the Election Commission move could, perversely, make the covered statues a much more potent force in her campaign than they might have been without the tarps.

How? Well, Mayawati, so far defensive on the statues and the mindless expenditure incurred on these, might go to town claiming she is being victimised. She might mobilise her so far listless support base by cleverly portraying the EC’s move as an assault on Dalit pride. With not much to defend for her abysmal failure in the governance, economy and corruption front, she might peddle conspiracy theories to bolster her sagging prospects in the elections. The EC could have provided her an agenda for the polls by default.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/statue-controversy-continues-lower-caste-indian-leader