Mayawati inaugurates 'dream project', says Congress ignored Dalit icons

Indo Asian News Service

Noida, Oct 14 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati Friday brushed aside all criticism of wastage of public money on her 'dream project' - a Rs.684 crore park dedicated to the Dalit cause, which she inaugurated in this Delhi suburb in the evening. It was her answer to the Congress having 'ignored Dalit icons', she said.

Mayawati used the occasion to slam the Congress, saying the party was so scared of her popularity that it could make Speaker Meira Kumar or union Minister Sushilkumar Shinde the prime minister for some time.

Virtually turning her speech into a frontal attack on the Congress, she said: 'Congress is so scared of me that it may make Meira Kumar or Sushilkumar Sinde the prime minister.'

'It is a trick of the Congress to sideline the true Dalit leader from the post,' she alleged.

Hitting out at the Congress, she said it had no place for Dalit icons and had ignored them through its decades in power. 'I have made the park because the Congress has ignored Dalit icons.'

Referring to the various memorials dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, she said the Congress had given lots of space to its heroes on the west bank of the Yamuna. That's why, she said, she had taken over the east bank of the river.

The message was clear -- the west bank is the Congress's, the east bank is the Bahujan Samaj Party's.

The sprawling 82-acre Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal and Green Garden has statues of 24 elephants, the symbol of her Bahujan Samaj Party, of Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar, her mentor Kanshi Ram and of herself. Besides, it has massive friezes from their lives. One panel even depicts herself with her parents.

Hitting out at the Congress, she said though Kanshi Ram died in Delhi 'but the Congress government did not give him enough space worth his stature. The Congress did not even make Babu Jagjivan Ram the prime minister of India. Angry over the Congress' ignoring him, Babuji had to float a party. It was a cruel trick to keep a Dalit away from power.'

Taking on the entire opposition that has been highly critical of her government's extravagance on projects like the Prerna sthal, Mayawati said: 'First of all, I would like to point out that the total expenditure on all the monuments that I have built during my tenure in honour of various Dalit icons did not work out to more than one per cent of my government's each year's budget.'

Her speech sounded like the launching of her campaign for the assembly polls due next year, as she used most of the time to vehemently criticise the Congress, its president Sonia Gandhi and the central government for 'discriminating against me and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government in Uttar Pradesh'.

Mayawati also attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for raiding her house and the residences of her kith and kin and filing cases of disproportionate assets against her.

She said all parties other than the BSP had ignored the Dalits and the backward classes, though she did not name her sworn rival - the Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh.

Both the Congress and the BJP, though rivals at the national level, were quick to criticise the remarks of Mayawati and the construction of the park.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters that Mayawati was 'wasting public money on grandiose projects' instead of providing basic needs like health, education and irrigation to the people of Uttar Pradesh.

'The BSP government has been spending public money on non-essential things when the state has the worst indices of infant mortality and education,' he added,

BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said in New Delhi that the people will give Mayawati their reply in the coming state elections.

'In a democracy, saying that because we have majority, we can waste public money... at some point of time, people will raise their voice against it,' Rudy said.

Elaborate arrangements were made for the grand function, attended by hundreds of her supporters and officials. The function began with a Buddhist prayer service.

Mayawati recalled that on Oct 8, 2003, when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted raids on her properties during the NDA rule, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi phoned her. Gandhi, Mayawati said, told her that this was a campaign to malign her.

Mayawati said Gandhi had told her that she felt sad that injustice has been done against her (Mayawati) and the Congress will undo it if it comes to power. 'But she has forgotten it,' the BSP supremo added.

During United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime since 2004, several similar cases (of disproportionate assets) have been withdrawn, but her case was still pending, Mayawati said.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is being misused by the Congress and the centre as was done by the BJP, she alleged.

Political circles view Mayawati's vehement attack on the Congress against the background of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's attempts to make inroads into Mayawati's Dalit forte in the state by spending nights at Dalits' huts or sharing a meal with Dalit families.