January 23, 2020
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The Other Pantheist

The Other Pantheist
After a long time the blue period has returned to Uttar Pradesh. Whatever Picasso, the Cubist master with whom the phrase is associated, might have had to say, in Mayawati raj it’s more sculpture than painting. Behenji’s celebratory pride, for being in control of the state’s levers of power, manifests in her peculiar brand of idolatry and her obsession for statues.

This time, however, she isn’t fixated on Ambedkar alone. Her broadened pantheon includes a wider array of social reformers. The BSP chief minister recently ordered the installation of five new bronze statues and only one of them is Ambedkar’s. The other four are Chhatrapti Shahuji Maharaj, Jyotibha Phule, Periyar and Sri Narayanaguru. Not only has Mayawati emphatically moved beyond the great Dalit mascot, the reformers being propped up by her establishment are from places far beyond the Hindi heartland—BSP’s area of origin and operations. Periyar and Phule were, for instance, from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra respectively. If not in the BSP’s political manoeuvring, at least in its statue-centric posturing one gets a whiff of a pan-Dalit ideology.

A traditional sculptor, Shravan Prajapati, has been commissioned to give shape to the plan.

Though officials claim they are yet to decide where the statues will be installed, insiders say that all the five bronze figures, standing 12-15 foot high, will stand in a row on a common platform. Mayawati’s deadline to the department of culture is two months.

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