With only two days to go before the Jan 11 deadline, officials were on Monday busy covering up statues of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati and of elephants, the ruling BSP's symbol, in Noida and Lucknow to comply with the Election Commission order.
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 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 opposition parties are 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.