The Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped work on memorials and statues being constructed by the UP government for Chief Minister Mayawati and other Dalit leaders, saying taxpayers’ money cannot be used for this purpose.
“We may ask the government as to how such a colossal expenditure can be incurred,” said a bench comprising justices B.N. Aggarwal and Aftab Alam. “It cannot be arbitrary because it involves taxpayers’ money.”
The UP government is constructing 12 memorials to Mayawati, her mentor Kanshi Ram and Dalit movement icon Bhimrao Ambedkar, and statues of the Bahujan Samaj Party election symbol, elephants, in Lucknow at an estimated cost of Rs 2,500 crore (Rs 25 billion).
Senior counsel and BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra asked the court not to issue a formal order — staying the construction — saying the government will on its own stop the work with immediate effect.
But Mishra argued that the UP memorials were being opposed for political reasons. He wanted to know why no one questioned those made to members of a family — the Nehru-Gandhi family — at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion).
There were none for late prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, the court said, adding it was only concerned with the constitutional propriety of such decisions and not the politics behind them.
Two of the projects:
Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal
Statues of 90 elephants
Estimated cost: Rs 1,200 crore (Rs 12 billion)
Manyawar Kanshi Ram memorial
Statues of Mayawati, Kanshi Ram
Estimated cost Rs 370 crore (Rs 3,700 million)