When bad art and bad politics meet. From Foreign Policy:
Woman of the people: Kumari Mayawati, chief minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is best known as an advocate for the rights of Dalits, the historically marginalized caste also known as the “untouchables.” But Mayawati’s populist image took a hit last year when India’s Supreme Court rebuked her for spending $425 million in public funds to build statues of herself and other famous Dalits. Mayawati remains popular among Dalits, but the scandal over this lavish public expenditure in one of India’s poorest states continues to dog her.
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Instead of building meaningless bronze and stone statues of herself and other Dalit leaders, Mayawati could have made the leap in imagination to commission a world-class memorial that could have put Lucknow on the world map, writes Amrit Dhillon in the Times of India.
Standing beside the dirty Gomti river in Lucknow, looking at the structures Mayawati on its bank in her quest for immortality, is enough to make you weep. Not over the hubris behind the self-aggrandisement. Nor over the idea of building memorials to honour Dalit leaders such as B R Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram. Nor even the colossal cost or the efforts of an army of poor workers labouring under a pitiless sun.
It is the way she has squandered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With acres of land and billions of rupees at her disposal, this was Mayawati’s chance to go down in history as the woman who gave birth to a piece of architecture rivalling anything that has come up in the past 60 years. It was a chance to be bold and daring, to create something beautiful and unique. A chance to hold a nationwide competition of architects and order them to let their imaginations soar. The competition would have animated Lucknow residents. A lively debate would have ensued on what they desired for themselves and future generations. What did they want in the city? A stadium, a museum, a university, a hospital, a park or a monument?