Mayawati plays Dalit card to defend spending on memorialsDecember 29th, 2008 - 11:10 pm ICT by IANS
Lucknow, Dec 29 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati Monday sought to once again play her Dalit card to defend her spending spree for numerous memorials which have already received allocations of more than Rs.10 billion.Reacting sharply to media criticism about “gross misuse of the tax-payer’s money”, Mayawati sought to blame it on “the old upper caste mindset” and “collusion with opposition parties” at a press conference Monday evening.
At a specially convened press conference, the chief minister explained for nearly an hour on how and why the media was critical of whatever she was doing in honour of her ideologues and her party’s icons - Babasaheb Ambedkar and her own political mentor the late Kanshi Ram, founder of the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The opening line of her lengthy press statement which she read out spoke about her “humble Dalit background”. Without naming any particular newspaper, journal or TV channel, she went about lambasting all those who had sought to raise questions about her extravagance on memorials that were built and demolished, only to be built afresh.
“Apparently, a section of the media as well as the opposition are not able to digest whatever I had done to honour those who had been intentionally neglected and whose contribution to the nation was deliberately ignored - these included Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar and respected Kanshi Ram in particular,” she said.
Terming the opposition’s attitude as “discriminatory” towards the monuments she was building for Ambedkar, his wife Rama Bai and Kanshi Ram, Mayawati went to the extent of questioning the expenditure that was incurred on the memorials of prominent national leaders and freedom fighters by past governments.
“No one raised an eyebrow when billions were spent on memorials and monuments devoted to the memory of Congress leaders across the length and breadth of the country,” she remarked and asked: “And what about the huge chunks of land allotted to the samadhis of different Congress leaders on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi, whose maintenance cost was also borne by the state exchequer?”
While attempting to evoke sympathy for herself by describing herself as a “member of the lowest social order”, she went out to label all her critics as “anti-Dalit”.
Even as she claimed that every penny being spent on the memorials, parks and monuments in the name of her icons had been duly approved by the state assembly, she chose to remain totally evasive about the official allocations.
“You can make an application to my officers and they will provide you the information,” she angrily told a scribe who sought to know the sum total of funds allocated for the giant structures coming up in different parts of Lucknow, before abruptly dismissing the press conference and marching out of the hall.
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