Every politician wants to live in our hearts and minds forever — or, at least, leave behind a legacy. Leaving a legacy, alas, is not always equated with performance. So there’s the slightly less difficult way of leaving one’s mark through statues, portraits and, yes, poetry. UP Chief Minister Mayawati doesn’t want to leave such onerous task of firming up her image for history to her followers. So, along with unveiling the statues of B.R. Ambedkar, his wife Ramabai and Kanshi Ram on Monday, Mayawati also slipped in one life-size statue of her own estimable self. If lesser mortals are dumbfounded at this open show of the self-centredness, the lady was unfazed. She quoted from Kanshi Ram’s will, which stated that a statue of Mayawati should be put up next to his. Almost in passing, she gave another reason: “A statue or memorial should come up when the leader is alive so that he or she can derive satisfaction from it too.” Frankly, UP as well as the rest of the country can do with such honesty.
In any case, why deny her such a pedestal? The word ‘statue’, after all, is derived from ‘status’ and if identity politics — of which Mayawati is a master of — is anything, it is about status. When she cuts her multi-tier cakes and jangles her glittering diamonds, she is sending out the political message: Dalits can outdo anybody in the ‘over-the-top’ department. And if Jayalalithaa can get ‘the good treatment’, so can Mayawati. And who better than Mayawati to give Mayawati a push in this direction?
Which brings us to the tricky question: what will happen to the statue if and when there’s a change in government in Lucknow? We’ve just been told to perish that thought.