Under attack over the controversial Rs. 685-crore Dalit memorial, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati on Friday hit out at Congress saying it had no right to criticise when it has raised so many memorials for the Nehru-Gandhi family across the Yamuna bank in Delhi.
She also attacked Congress and BJP for "ignoring" dalit icons BR Ambedkar and BSP founder Kanshi Ram.
"In Delhi, central government has constructed various memorials on the western bank of Yamuna to honour people like Nehru and Gandhi, but not a single one has been built for dalit icons like Bhim Rao Ambedkar and founder of BSP Kanshi Ram," Mayawati said.
The chief minister inaugurated a 36-acre park in Noida which houses memorials of Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram besides statues of herself and of 20 elephants, the BSP symbol each costing Rs. 70 lakh.
The construction of the park had come under attack from political parties and conservationists who had approached the Supreme Court alleging destruction of green belt along the Okhla Bird sanctuary. The court initially stayed construction but later lifted it.
Justifying the Rastriya Dalit Prerna Sthal and Green Garden project, Mayawati said, "We always felt the need to have a memorial dedicated to the icons of Dalit community and this is one such for the benefit of dalits living around the national capital region including western Uttar Pradesh."
The sentiments of people from Dalit community were badly hurt due to central government's attitude of "ignoring" the works of Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram, she said.
The Congress on Friday charged Mayawati with "wasting public money on grandiose projects" instead of providing basic needs like health, education and irrigation to the people.
"The BSP government has been spending public money on non-essential things when the state has worst indices of infant mortality and education," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told NDTV news channel.
"It is evident there is a sense of outrage among the people of UP against the developmental priorities of chief minister Mayawati."
Tewari said the litmus test of the Bahujan Samaj Party government will held in April-May 2012 when the assembly elections are held.
"That would be the time to take a call on how popular or unpopular the Mayawati government is," said Tewari.
"I think the people of UP are wise enough to look at such misuse of public money."
The Congress spokesperson said the party will make misuse of public money an issue in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.
Another Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdary said "money spent on the Ambedkar memorial should have been diverted to schools, hospitals, safety for women, farmers".
"Mayawati's priority is herself. It is not about the Dalit icon, but about missed priorities," said Chowdary.
"It is nothing but wastage of money. If Rs. 700 crore was used for development of poor people or for the country it was worth it," said Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi.
BJP leader Kalraj Mishra said crores of rupees were spent on erecting statues but nothing was done for the poor and downtrodden.
"The chief minister has spent crores on erecting statues but did nothing significant for the poor and drowntrodden people. It has come to my notice that voice of people for fertiliser, electricity and water was ignored by officers," Mishra said.
Watch video | In pics: Maya's icons