I swear I am not joking. After a vroom vroom visit to Mayaland to watch India’s virgin Formula One at the world-class Buddh International Circuit (BIC), I am ready to personally carve a brand new, larger-than-lifesize statue of Mayawati and erect it at a prominent junction in Mumbai. That lady is something else!
Ms Mayawati is my babe-of-the-moment. After pulling off that coup (F1), Ms Mayawati’s stock has zoomed at a speed faster than Sebastian Vettel’s mean machine could rev up. Suddenly, all those snotty F1 fans from Delhi, Mumbai and other cities have had to suck in their breaths and say, “Wow! How did she do it? How?” Mind you, no matter who else was involved (yes, Shri Jaiprakash Gaur, we know it’s you!), it was Ms Mayawati who walked away with all the credit. And hello! Nobody wants to get into the nitty-gritty. A few legal eagles, in on the myriad contracts, whispered not everything was all that kosher and that there were several wheels within wheels and deals within deals, with a whole lot of “black in the lentils”. Does anybody really care? Naah! With stories galore about Ms Mayawati’s family members allegedly getting pretty juicy prime cuts on virtually every brick and bag of cement used, nobody blinked or minded. The reaction has been cool and blasé. “Let them also make money, yaar. But at least India delivered big time for a change. Look at what happened with Commonwealth Games. Paisa khaaya aur kuch bhi nahin kiya. It was such a disgrace.” Point.
We are very sweet and considerate that way. We expect our leaders to keep their family members khush. It’s a given. If Asif Ali Zardari was known in Pakistan as Mr 10 Per Cent, Ms Mayawati’s gang falls into the Messrs 30 Per Cent. Janey do. At least Ms Mayawati fixed the Doubting Thomases who had predicted she’d fall flat on her face with the F1. Advantage Behenji. As anybody who made a pit stop at the Buddh Circuit will readily confirm, this was an absolute coup. And the response (even from sceptics) has been an unconditional thumbs up. Let’s not get ethics and values into the picture. Nor the staggering cost of getting the track and infrastructure off the ground. Point is, Buddh took fans by surprise. But more importantly, it took the motor-racing world’s breath away.
The most interesting aspect of attending the historic Indian F1 was the long drive to the distant venue. A drive that took people past the famous `3,000 crore park with “those” statues that have generated so much criticism and scorn. I passed the park four times. At one point our car was stuck right opposite the notorious elephants, lining the gigantic Dalit Prerna Hall. The first reaction to the elephants and the imposing Stupa-style structure was very positive. The design was pleasing, aesthetic and wonderfully conceived. What had I expected? I’ll be candid and tell you — I had imagined the much-discussed park to be a totally hideous complex crammed with ugly statues. Instead, what I saw was a magnificent ground dotted with handsome monuments made out of local stone and built in a holistic style devoid of any ostentation. Ms Mayawati certainly got this right, as well! As to why she is “wasting” so much money on those statues. Because she is smart! She has vision. What she has cleverly invested in (the park) reflects the aspirations and hopes of dalits. It’s a beautiful space dalits can finally call their own. A space they have never had. Never! A space that provides a strong sense of identity… that they can feel proud of. Intuitively and instinctively, Ms Mayawati must have known that if she wants to leave behind a worthwhile, memorable legacy for future generations to enjoy, it had to be on this scale and on these terms. Good for her.
When one looks around India (a country obsessed by symbols of power in the form of statues), whose figures do we see? Here’s a rough checklist: topping it is, of course, Mahatma Gandhi. Followed by Jawaharlal Nehru, Netaji, Shivaji and the odd Maharaja. You may find a Jhansi Ki Rani, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Rabindranath Tagore and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. B.R. Ambedkar stands tall in more and more cities these days. Then on to countless Indira and Rajiv Gandhi representations. Nearly every important, modern landmark is named after one or the other member of the Gandhi family — the mother, son or grandfather. Airports and other public buildings are all taken by the trio. What about Mumbai’s Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link, which should have legitimately been named after Ambedkar, who was born in Worli, where it is located… but wasn’t? What about the acres and acres of land in Delhi devoted to various “sthals”? How come nobody finds all of this “wasteful, extravagant, meaningless”?
Ms Mayawati is no fool. It is all about those numbers. She is looking ahead at the big picture, and what she’s seeing is obviously good. She is not waiting for anyone to erect her statues… she’s doing the job herself. She is shrewd enough to realise the power of the statue-politics. The more you erect, the stronger the positioning. Why wait till you are dead and gone for followers to get those statues up?
Ms Mayawati is assiduously building her own personality cult. Let’s just hope her statues don’t suffer the same fate as those of others who did the same. Till then, let her bask in her international fame, posing with the handsome and young F1 champions. She’s finally in the fast track… who can stop her now?
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