Dalit powerhouse Mayawati has to return the crores she had spent, installing hundreds of elephant statues in the parks of Lucknow and Noida, the Supreme Court said today. The elephant is the symbol of her Bahujan Samaj Party and public funds cannot be used to promote it, contended a petition which the court was hearing.
“We are of the tentative view that Mayawati has to deposit the public money spent on her statues and party symbol to the state exchequer,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said. “Pay all the money from your pocket,” the Chief Justice said.
The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna, will hear the case next on April 2.
During her stint in power from 2007 to 2012, Mayawati had built memorials to Dalit icons and embellished hundreds of parks with statues not only of elephants, but also her own and that of her mentor Kanshi Ram.
Several appeals were filed in courts for what the petitions said were blatant misuse of public money. The Congress, which was in the opposition, alleged that she was even planning to build statues of her family members.
Her bitter rival, Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav had claimed that she had spent nothing less than 40,000 crore. Mayawati had denied the allegations, but she had not revealed the amount spent on memorials.
The Bahujan Samaj Party had later told the Supreme Court that the full expenditure on the statues was based on the budget passed by the Uttar Pradesh assembly.
BSP’s Satish Chandra Misra said, “This was an oral observation and not an order. The only thing ordered was that the next hearing will be in April.”
The current petition was filed in 2009 by two advocates, Ravikant and Sukumar. In 2012, the Election Commission ordered that all Mayawati and elephant statues be covered before the assembly elections in the state in order to provide a level-playing field for all parties. Mr Yadav’s Samajwadi Party had swept the election.
Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have now joined hands to fight the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in the national election.
In the court today, the BSP asked if the case can be heard in May, after the elections. “Please don’t compel us to say something which we don’t want,” the Chief Justice said.