A hammer blow on a statue of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has not only boosted her sagging stocks but also brought the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) to its knees and shown up the inexperience of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
The government raced to restore the statue within 24 hours of it being vandalised much to the delight of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Gleeful BSP workers said it was the "power of their god behenji" that the government, in a late night knee-jerk reaction, fished out a similar Mayawati statue lying dumped at the Sangeet Natak Academy (SNA) and got it scrubbed, polished and restored.
To make things worse for the four-month-old Akhilesh Yadav government, police have been asked to protect her statues 24x7 and to ensure that no repeat of the Thursday incident takes place, said informed sources.
This missive from the home department has taken the cops by surprise as the same government was not so long ago speaking of bulldozing the statues and turning memorials built by the Dalit Diva into hospitals.
Political observers feel that the inexperience and immaturity of the chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, 38, has left the party red-faced as it is now faced with the task of defending the decision to bring back the statue of the BSP supremo.
"How has it helped? What about our morale... We spoke against her and now officials in our government are working overtime, burning the midnight oil to restore the statue of one of the most corrupt politicians in the country," said a senior minister on condition of anonymity.
Another party leader also questioned the move to restore the statue with such lightning speed.
"I am amazed that within minutes of the vandalism, the chief minister issued a statement not only condemning the act (which was fine) but also assuring that the statue of Mayawati would be restored immediately," he said.
The move, a senior police official said, was a "little amusing".
"In my view, the situation should have been dealt with as a law and order issue and handled administratively," he said, adding that the chief minister should not have intervened in the restoration "mess".
This could have been announced and done by officials of the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA).
The incident has highlighted the awe the former chief minister still evokes in her political adversaries and the babudom. This is highlighted by the fact that the first information report (FIR) slapped against the miscreants likens Mayawati to a living god as section 295 is meant for people "damaging place of worship or an object/place considered to be sacred for a section of the society".
Other than this, the government now has the onerous task of protecting 10 other statues of Mayawati - four marble and six bronze, all over eight feet height, and also of all other Dalit icons that she placed during her five year tenure (2007-12).
Other than this, there are figurines, huge and small of the party's symbol elephant.
This will be humbling for the government which had immediately after its swearing in slashed 450 Home Guards from duty at the Dalit memorials. "There has been no cut in the number... everything is in place as it was in the predecessor government," said a defensive principal secretary (Home) R.M. Srivastava.
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