A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on February 8 asked Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati to deposit the public money spent on constructing her statues to the state exchequer.
Although the matter was posted for final hearing on April 2, the bench was of the tentative view that “Mayawati has to deposit the public money spent on her statues and party symbol to the state exchequer”.
This was in response to a petition filed by an advocate who had contended that public money cannot be used to construct one’s own statues and further propaganda.
Let’s take a closer look at what the case is and how much money does Mayawati owe the public exchequer.
What is the case?
Mayawati was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh from May 2007 to March 2012. During this time, she is known to have constructed multiple Dalit memorials, including statues of BSP founder Kanshi Ram and BSP’s election symbol, an elephant.
In 2014, when the current SP chief Akhilesh Yadav was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the state vigilance department registered a case against Mayawati accusing her of financial irregularities.
The UP Vigilance Department alleged that the construction of these statues had led to “a loss of over Rs 111, 44, 35, 066 to the government exchequer and unlawful gain to public servants and private individuals”, something that later came to be known as the ‘Memorial Scam’.
Where is the money?
The Mayawati government had constructed statues, memorials and parks in various parts of Uttar Pradesh, including Noida and Lucknow, at a total cost of Rs 2,600 crore.
In May 2013, the UP Lokayukta alleged that Rs 1,400 crore of public money has been siphoned off in the construction of these memorials. The Lokayukta pointed out that this was 34 percent of the budget for the construction of memorials and parks.
Who all were named in this scam?
The FIR registered by the state vigilance department indicted 199 individuals in the scam, including Mayawati’s then close aides and former ministers Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Babu Singh Kushwaha. Besides, 12 of her party MLAs were accused of alleged “wrongdoings in the purchase of sandstone for the memorials”.
What is the progress on the case so far?
After assuming the position of chief minister in 2012, Akhilesh Yadav ordered a probe into the alleged irregularities and corruption in the supply of pink sandstone from Mirzapur. At that time, Lokayukta NK Mehrotra, in his report to the chief minister, recommended filing of an FIR under Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) of the IPC against 19 persons, including Siddiqui and Kushwaha.
However, Mehrotra had told reporters that there was no proof of Mayawati’s personal involvement in the scam.
In September 2018, the Allahabad High Court had sought a status report from the UP Vigilance Department.On January 31, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had raided six locations in Lucknow in connection with the scam, a move that experts saw as politically motivated in the wake of SP and BSP announcing an alliance to ouster the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.