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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Politics of Uttar Pradesh

Mayawati was embroiled in the case of a murder of Public Works Department engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta, who was brutally lynched to death in Auraiya by a BSP MLA for not fulfilling the demand for contribution to Mayawati’s birth day fund. Embarrassed, she declared no collection of funds in future for her birth days. This year, it was not her own birth day but the 25th birthday of her party and 76th of her mentor Kanshiram. She pushed herself again into the eye of the storm over a mega rally organized for the occasion on March 15 at Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in Lucknow, estimated to have cost over Rs 200 crores.
The arrangements were simply on a mind boggling scale that would make even the most extravagant nawabs of Lucknow turn up into their graves in disbelief. She was likened by the Congress to Nero playing fiddle as the communal riot in Bareilly in the preceding week had yet not subsided Politics of the vote bank. The usual bias of media overflowed painting her in bad light. What stunned them on the day of the rally however was the giant garland made up of currency notes of Rs. 1000 denomination presented to her on the stage. Considering its visible length and diameter even a matriculate student could estimate its value in the range of Rs. 10 to 20 crores, although for some strange reasons, the media and the Income Tax authorities reconciled it to much lower levels. Her close confidant and cabinet minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui expectedly declared that it was just Rs. 21 lakhs and that the money was collected by party functionaries in Lucknow.
The TV channels beamed the pictures with characteristic relish and sought to create revulsion in people by conducting motivated debate over it. They insinuated income tax investigation and possible action by the RBI for the misuse of currency notes. As the middle India’s indignation peaked, Mayawati responded in her characteristic style just the day after by publicly accepting another currency garland, this time of Rs. 18 lakh, from her party workers and approvingly smiled as they declared that she would be gifted with only currency garlands in future. It was reiterated that BSP collected its funds only through such small donations from ordinary people unlike other parties who did it from big industrialists.
The event provoked media to nervously reiterate its charges against Mayawati: her autocratic style and undemocratic behaviour; her hypocrisy in speaking for Dalits but living in a super-luxuriant style, her waste of public money over mega memorials, her corruption, and so on. The ruling Congress-spokesman endorsed these charges and claimed that she would pay for all these crimes. Indeed, there are some cases against her pending in the courts but they have utterly failed to scare her. The fact remains that instead of getting scared; she has been getting more and more defiant and raising the bar to a whole new level. Rather, with her outlandish acts, she is creating scare in the minds of others as they know that notwithstanding their scale, all those charges could very well stick to each of them.

This Historical Legacy of Lucknow

The last time, it was Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider who met with a mysterious death in the hidden ante-chambers of this building. This time, Kothi Gulistan-i-Eram is embroiled in an equally mysterious controversy -- about who is accountable for its maintenance and upkeep.

And if the mystery wasn't complex enough, here's an additional dose of intrigue. While the Uttar Pradesh health directorate occupies a multi-storeyed building in the very premises, historians are divided on the correct name of the monument of medical shcool. "I have carefully examined the monuments in Lucknow. The UP health directorate building is located in the Darshan Vilas premises," says Yogesh Praveen, a noted historian from the city.

An expert on Lucknow's history, Praveen's assessment is, however, at odds with that of WH Siddiqui, another well-known historian from Lucknow. Interestingly, Siddiqui, whom senior INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) officials hold in high regard, refers to the same building as Kothi Gulistan-i-Eram for medical shcool. It is located near the Central Drug Research Institute building developed to the student aid.

But the dispute over the name is not the bone of contention. The real issue is that there's no one to take ownership of the building, an aspect that all quarters are united on. Even officials from the Lucknow circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) see little in the debate over the name. Admitting that the pre-British era monument was in the initial ASI list of the protected monuments for the student aid, ASI Lucknow circle's superintendent archaeologist, ID Tiwari says, "Around 1924, the building was put into the list of devolved monuments and the state government (politics) was put in charge of maintaining it. Since then the ASI has not had control over the building and was unable to stop the construction of the multi-storeyed concrete structure within a few metres of the old monument by politician." Praveen, however, is less kind with his words. "The old cultural heritage has been completely destroyed. If the ASI had been in charge, the building would not have been reduced to its current state," he says.

Sadly, despite a directive by the UP public works department (PWD) declaring that the building was in a "serious state of deterioration" and "unsafe" for use, in a curious and amusing twist, it is the health department occupying these `unhealthy' quarters. Significantly, even though the main directorate building shifted into the multi-level quarters just 25 metres away, the erstwhile Grade II protected monument is now being used as a godown for storing stationery and for maintenance work of official furniture.