Why statues won’t help Mayawati

by Ritwik on July 17, 2009

Recently there has been a fair bit of comment on the Mayawati government’s decision to build statues and memorials to “Dalit icons” [including herself] at a cost of thousands of crores of taxpayer money.

While the commentary on this matter has been relatively recent, large scale edification has been on Mayawati’s radar ever since she first assumed chief ministership of India’s largest state, back in the mid nineties. Over the last two decades and more, erecting statues of Ambedkar and other Dalit icons has been seen as a potent symbol of the shift in the dynamics of power. Like all manifestations of identity politics, Dalit leaders sought to give their followers “pride”, as a substitute for real improvement in the ground situation.

Much of the reporting and “analysis” regarding the latest statue building exercise, in newspapers and on TV [between such vital topics as “dhoni ke dhurandar” and “rakhi ka swayamwar”] hasn’t touched upon the topic of electoral gain: will this statue building spree benefit Mayawati electorally? A happy exception is Gautam Bhatia’s article in Open magazine, in which Bhatia lambasts Mayawati for wasting not only vast amounts of money, but also a real opportunity of providing change.

Bhatia’s piece aside, the lack of electoral speculation is hardly surprising – the Indian media [particularly of the English language variety] has a terrible record of predicting electoral outcomes.

We must not forget that this is the same media which was projecting no more than 150 seats for BSP in the 2007 UP assembly elections [BSP finally got 200+ for a simple majority]. After that stellar performance, the media pendulum swung the other way, with commentators falling over themselves projecting 40+ parliamentary seats for the BSP. Some went so far as to project Mayawati as a viable candidate for Prime Ministership.

The people, sadly for the commentators and happily for the country, gave Mayawati a total of 19 seats, way less than any opinion poll prediction.

The media, still licking its wounds, has apparently decided not to stick out its neck once again, and is thus refusing to speculate about the electoral dividend [if any] generated by what one reporter has charmingly called the ‘BSP School of Architecture’. The reporter, an avid propagandist of the BSP movement, seems to have temporarily stopped writing on Dalit issues ever since the Lok Sabha results. Now, he wisely devotes his attention to matters such as LGBT rights and persecution of Uighurs in China.

Since I am not a journalist, nor connected to the media in any way, I will go ahead and do what most Indians are very happy doing in their drawing rooms/paan shops/offices/playgrounds etc etc – predict the fate of politicians and political parties.

I contend that this grand architectural exercise is not going to help Mayawati in any way. The fact remains that BSP candidates lost 15 out of 17 reserved constituencies in UP in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. This clearly implies that BSP’s trustworthy core votebank of Dalits deserted it in large numbers. It is my hunch that non-jatav dalits didn’t vote for Mayawati this time as enthusiastically as 2007.

Mayawati seeks to win back these sections through the tired old formula of “pride”. I firmly believe that his formula is now past its sell-by date.

How will I prove my assertion?

Well, certainly not through a “caste based voting pattern survey”, or whatever the hell it is called. In a secret ballot, how the hell do you get to know that 33.67% leuva patels voted for BJP?

I have a much more reliable formula on which I base my political predictions. My weather vane is our ever unreliable Indian English media. Much as when the Met department predicts rain, I apply sunscreen, when I see a topic garnering massive attention in the English language press, it is clear that the issue has no great resonance with the masses.

For example, almost nobody wrote about Mayawati’s “social engineering” [going on since at least 2003] before the 2007 UP elections. After her stunning victory,social engineering was the buzz in town. This time, the English press focused only on social engineering, forgetting about such petty matters as crime and ganglordism, and the BSP was swept aside. In much the same way, statues had resonance in the 80s and the 90s, when the press was busy elsewhere [high number of beauty queens from India, for example]. Now that the press focuses on statues, I am sure the real issues lie elsewhere, such as water scarcity in Bundelkhand.


Ritwik sir, it’s not a good idea to display your naivete so openly! Except for the 2007 Assembly elections, the BSP has always fared badly in reserved constituencies. The paradox of dalit parties not being able to win reserved constituencies is easily explained by the fact that all parties have to put up an SC candidate, and Dalit votes get divided.

And it’s not true that I haven’t written on Mayawati/BSP since LS elections. See this for instance: http://kafila.org/2009/05/21/ups-dalits-remind-mayawati-democracy-is-a-beautiful-thing/

by Shivam on July 17, 2009 at 12:47 pm. #

And while on the subject of statues, please see http://blog.insightyv.com/?p=236

by Shivam on July 17, 2009 at 12:49 pm. #


1. Thank you for your comments. They only serve to bolster my point. As you admit, the BSP did remarkably well in reserved constituencies in 2007, and quite badly in 2009. What has changed in two years? Either the social engineering formula failed, or dalits did not come out to vote, or both. I believe that dalits ditched Mayawati. What better way to convince you of this than your own article:


2. I had read that particular piece earlier [being a big fan of your writings, I follow them most diligently] but I do believe that your output on dalit politics has declined considerably since the deflating election results.

3. Although I don’t think that poem is very good literature, by and large I agree with the sentiments expressed. That is why I have talked about how statue building and other such symbolic acts had a lot of popular resonance through the 80s and 90s, but this is now subject to the law of diminishing returns.In other words, if Mayawati believes that she will win back dalits through statues, then she is deluded.

by Ritwik Agrawal on July 17, 2009 at 3:41 pm. #

I love the dig on ‘English News Channels’. And Mayawati is kinda finished now. The assembly elections should be icing on the cake.

by Neelakshi on July 18, 2009 at 8:45 pm. #

@Neelakshi: I take a dig at all news channels, english or hindi.

And I think it’s too early to write off Mayawati. She has shown the ability to evolve and change in the past, and there is no reason she won’t do the same in the future as well.

by Ritwik Agrawal on July 18, 2009 at 9:25 pm. #

Do you know Mayawati’s age?

by Shivam on July 19, 2009 at 2:30 am. #

@Shivam: you do, undoubtedly. So please tell me and also reveal to me the point of that question.

by Ritwik Agrawal on July 19, 2009 at 3:11 am. #

Well Argued

by Raman Sinha on July 19, 2009 at 7:46 pm. #

I mentioned english news channels because hindi news channels are in a world of their own where Rakhi’s would-be (or wouldn’t be) husband is as important as Mayawati.
I guess you’re right. I wouldn’t say its optimistic to think of Mayawati changing. Its more of a necessity to ensure her survival in U.P.

by Neelakshi on July 19, 2009 at 8:31 pm. #

Ritwik and Shivam, you don’t truly understand this matter: you shouldnt be talking about this.

Mayawatiji is truly the heroine of the hindus of this country.

Like dayanand, the struggle of ambedkar and mayawati is an internal struggle of hinduism.

Mayawati has never said that she will convert to another faith. she now accpets hindu iconography openly (haathi nahi ganesh hai, brahma vishnu mahesh hai)

The act of erecting statues is a truly pagan, hindu act.
Its christians who find it odd that someone is erecting their own statues. The kings of vijaynagar did this often. so did other hindu kings. and the romans and other pagan people. Ritwik, when people like you feel odd that statues of a living person are being put up, I shake my head at the christianisation of this country!

the dalit struggle is an internal reform movement of hinduism, and that is the reason why mayawati has never had a problem in joining hands with the BJP.

inspite of political tensions, mayawati chose to stand with narendrabhai in his hour of distress, when she campaigned for bjp after the 2002 “riots”. This when so-called allies like the unpatriotic paswan had withdrawn support to the nda.

wishy washy liberals like Ritwik and pseudo-friends of dalits like shivam can debate all they want, but unless they realize the true nature of the dalit movement, they will always miss the truth.

Long live the dalit cause.

jai bheem!
jai bharat!

by Naval Das on July 19, 2009 at 10:14 pm. #

I really don’t see how the question of ‘Christianisation’ (or whatever that is) is relevant here. It may be a very ‘Hindu’ act and Ritwik is probably very very wrong in writing against it. Only thing is, Mayawati’s statues and lavish birthday are not helping the Dalits in any way. erecting massive statues to instill ‘pride’ in the Dalits is also not working. As Ritwik pointed out, the Lok Sabha elections have shown that Mayawati does not hold resonance with the Dalits any longer. And has lost pretty badly in the elections.
There is nothing wrong with statues per se but if that money was only used for the upliftment of the Dalits, it would be better. Mayawati champions the Dalit cause, but I would really like to know; how will erecting statue after statue help the Dalits in any way whatsoever?

by Neelakshi on July 20, 2009 at 8:41 pm. #

Dalits Hindus Christians Pagans all are human beings
no father is going to give vote to Miss Mayawati if even basic health care is denied to his child.No mother will give vote,if govt apathy continues…The state in U.P is govts come and go the ground realities remain the same.It might be statues of Miss.Mayawati(whoose personal strggle i admire) or the S.P and Mr.Amar Singh and his “bollywood” connections.

As for the Lok Sabha,I personally now of dalit friends who voted for congress,n one friends dad choosing not to cast his ballot at all.

Developement is the only sustainable poll point for any party

Miss Mayawati is 53 years old http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayawati

And had long political career ahead of her

by Lingraj on July 21, 2009 at 10:57 pm. #

Kumari Mayawati was sworn in as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh for the fourth time on 13 May 2007. She announced an agenda that focussed on providing social justice to weaker sections and providing employment instead of distributing money to the unemployed; her slogan is to make “Uttar Pradesh” (“Northen Province”) into an “Uttam Pradesh” (“Excellent Province”).

Her first action was to suspend two IAS officers for non-performance alleging that they failed to maintain the Ambedkar park in Lucknow: B.B. Singh, Vice-President (LDA), and S.K. Aggarwal (PWD Principal Sec.) and another lower rank officer. It is widely believed that these officers were close to the outgoing government of Mulayam Singh Yadav.[8] She has transferred around 100 police officers.[9]

According to her, she is continuing the process of clearing out corruption in the UP Police Department, whereas other parties claim that she is nurturing corruption by creating a team of government officials who operate under her personal control. The campaign is a major crackdown on corrupt police officers recruited during the previous Mulayam Singh Regime. So far 17,868 policemen have lost their jobs for irregularities in the recruitment process and 25 IPS officers were suspended for their involvement in corruption while recruiting the police constables.[10]

She has also opened case files related to land deals of the leading actor Amitabh Bachchan in Barabanki, who was close to the previous Samajwadi Party regime.

Keeping an eye on the votes of upper castes, she now talks about a policy for poverty-based reservations rather than caste-based reservations.[11]

[edit] 2009 parliamentary elections

Mayawati’s BSP has not reached its expectation in 2009 general elections. BSP, which was expected to win more than 35 seats in Lok Sabha from the Uttar Pradesh state, but remained at 20 seats. BSP obtained the highest percentage (27.42%) of votes in UP for any one political party. BSP was at the 3rd position in terms of national polling percentage (6.17%).[12].

by Lingraj on July 21, 2009 at 10:59 pm. #

sourced from wikipedia

by Lingraj on July 21, 2009 at 11:00 pm. #

Okay, first off, very cool article. Major props.

The essential problem with Mayawati’s statue building project is manifold:

1) It offers absolutely nothing to the people of UP. At all. No debate here. It is zilch.

2) It offers absolutely nothing to the Dalit group. Absolutely nothing. Again, no arguement here. Pride and whatnot are not things to be proffered by leaders, they are organically grown from the the achievements of oneself and one’s peers. All a statue can do is reinforce whatever preconcieved notions you have about a person. If you see the statue of someone that you admire, you are reminded of that admiration, and if you are disgusted by them then… same applies. In any case, these statues then cannot awaken or enhance feelings towards Mayawati, they can only keep PREEXISTING feelings fresh on the mind. Thus, even to argue that her construction projects offer any uplifting sentiment is also false.

3) They offer her nothing. Very simply, they offer neither her any political millage, nor any enduring legacy (Erected statues can be destroyed once public opinion changes, for example: Saddam)nor even more support form an increasingly disenchanted Dalit population.

by Sky on July 23, 2009 at 11:08 pm. #

Thanks for the compliment, Akash :)

by Ritwik Agrawal on July 24, 2009 at 4:26 am. #

Your article makes the assumption that Mayawati is building statues for electoral gains. You could counter by saying that the core of any decision making for a politician is electoral outcomes. But, it doesn’t fit here. Something tell me that this might not necessarily be true. We need an article on: Why Mayawati is building statutes?

by Aaditya on July 28, 2009 at 12:52 pm. #

Just read the edifice complex. Shivam has the reasons spot on.

by Aaditya on July 28, 2009 at 1:16 pm. #

My article also makes the assumption that when a politician does something that results in the expenditure of thousands of crores of public money, then that action is judged by the electorate.

Mayawati may not be building statues for electoral gain, but that doesn’t imply that the electorate will not judge her on the basis of this action.

So how will the electorate judge this? Let me break it down for you:

1. Those who don’t vote for Mayawati will be even more disgusted with her, and continue to vote for others.In some pockets, this section may consolidate and vote to defeat Mayawati.
2. The “swing” voters will think that instead of implementing her promises [keeping out criminal elements, for example] Mayawati is indulging in edification of herself. Consequently, BSP would receive fewer votes from this category of voters than in 2007.
3. Mayawati would need a high degree of consolidation from her cote votebank of jatav and non-jatav dalits to offset the losses mentioned in the last point. My contention in above article is that statues may not be enough for this section of voters, anymore.

by Ritwik Agrawal on July 29, 2009 at 12:45 pm. #

*bangs on desk*

by Sky on August 2, 2009 at 11:25 pm. #

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