For The Love Of Maya
- A neighbouring building has been demolished to make way for Mayawati’s mansion on a sprawling 1 lakh sq ft
- The UP government is spending Rs 42 crore on the “ex-CM’s house”
- Made of granite and pink Dholpur stone, it’ll have an 18-ft statue of hers
The UP government’s policy of endowing all former chief ministers with plum accommodation in Lucknow has been stretched too far by Mayawati. While predecessor Mulayam Singh Yadav too was indulgent on his abode out of office, Maya Memsaab has clearly outdone him.
First, Behenji pulled down the posh Mall Avenue bungalow allotted to her as ex-CM after her first stint in 1996. Then she encroached upon a neighbouring government office building—and duly demolished it. All this to create a sprawling 1,00,000 sq ft area on which the state government is now busy giving the final touches to a Rs 42 crore mansion. Of course, several crores have already been spent on an overhaul of the CM’s designated bungalow on Kalidass Marg.
Mayawati’s latest mansion is to be seen to be believed. With 18-ft high stone walls and matching copper and brass gates, it looks more like a fortress on Mall Avenue, the most prized address in Lucknow. With every second house here having been taken over directly or indirectly by Mayawati—be it in the name of the Bahujan Trust or the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) office—her detractors, including Mulayam Yadav, have taken to calling the street ‘Maya Avenue’.
The chateau-like bungalow betrays Mayawati’s weakness for pink Dholpur stone and expensive granite. And, no, the bungalow has not come up overnight. “It took us more than a year to raise this grand bungalow where everything has been personally approved by the chief minister,” remarks a top official of the UP Rajkiya Nirman Nigam (UPRNN), the state government’s construction agency.
Mayawati had first got 13-A, Mall Avenue allotted to her during her first stint as CM. She had then got the bungalow renovated at a cost of Rs 60 lakh. More renovation and refurbishing followed her two subsequent stints. It was when she became CM for the fourth time in May ’07 that renovation took off on 13-A, Mall Avenue, with a bulldozer razing the whole thing. When the demolition invited a public interest litigation, the government promptly declared it as Manyavar Kanshi Ram Yaadgar Vishram Sthal for which Rs 20 crore too was sanctioned.
Shortly thereafter, Behenji ordered that the Sugarcane Commissioner’s office shift out from next door, to make room for the all-new “ex-CM’s” bungalow. The construction of the new bungalow that was merged with the Vishram Sthal took longer than usual because of Mayawati’s wavering likes and dislikes. “Six granite canopies raised at the CM’s behest were erected and demolished twice simply because she was not impressed by the outcome of what was broadly her own design,” confides an engineer closely involved with the construction. Nearly Rs 5 crore was lost on that account.
But if you thought this was the end of Mayawati’s hubris, think again. A 40,000 sq ft quadrangle bearing an 18-ft-tall statue of hers is coming up next to that of Kanshi Ram. Her justification? She is merely fulfilling her mentor’s last wish that “she have her own statue wherever she would install his”.
That’s not all. Mayawati had designs on yet another bungalow in the neighbourhood belonging to former high court judge Justice Niyamatullah. Less than a month back, the Lucknow Development Authority chose to arbitrarily cancel the lease of the 90-year-old mansion and rushed its bulldozers in. Only the timely arrival of TV cameras saved the day. The judge’s family, of course, were quick to seek the high court’s intervention. Not every heritage building in Lucknow has legal immunity though.