BSP supremo Mayawati Tuesday defended in the Supreme Court the construction of life-size statues of herself in Uttar Pradesh, saying they represent the "will of the people".
The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, in an affidavit filed in the apex court, said the memorials and statues of herself and other leaders were "intended to promote values and ideals of various sants, gurus, social reformers and leaders among the public and not intended to promote the symbol of BSP or to glorify" her.
Mayawati said in her affidavit that her statues came into being "as the will of the state legislature to represent the will of the people".
She said funds for construction of the memorial and installation of statues were sanctioned through budgetary allocations after approval of the budget by the state legislature.
Mayawati also sought the dismissal of a plea, which alleged that pubic funds were misused in the construction of memorials and statues, saying it is politically motivated and a gross abuse of process of court of law.
On February 8, the apex court had said that the BSP chief should deposit public money used for erecting statues of herself and elephants, the party's symbol, at public places in Uttar Pradesh to the state exchequer.
"Ms Mayawati, pay all the money back. We are of the view that Mayawati should reimburse all the money she spent.
"We are of the tentative view that Mayawati has to deposit the public money spent on her statues and party symbol to the state exchequer," the bench had said.
The top court was hearing a petition filed in 2009 by an advocate who had alleged that about Rs 2,000 crore was used from the state budget for 2008-09 and 2009-10, when Mayawati was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, for stalling her statues and BSP's symbol at different places.
It was contended that public money cannot be utilised for creating own statues and for propagating the political party.
On May 29, 2009 the court had issued show cause notice to the Uttar Pradesh government and Mayawati for using the public money for installing her statues and party's symbol at parks in Lucknow and Noida, adjacent to the national capital.
During the pendency of the PIL, the apex court on February 22, 2010, had asked the Election Commission to examine the plea for removal of installation of these symbols from public places during the 2012 assembly polls.
The EC on January 7, 2012 had ordered that statues of Mayawati and elephants be covered during the state Assembly election.
The poll panel had said the measure was taken with the idea that no one should get political mileage.
When the the apex court in 2009 had decided to entertain the PIL, it had noted in its order the grievance of the petitioner that "hundreds of crores of public money" is being spent by the Uttar Pradesh government for "personal glorification" by erecting statues particularly of leaders who were in power.
It had also noted the petitioner's claim that the cost on installation of 60 elephant statues was Rs 52.20 crore which was not only wastage of public money but also contrary to circulars issued by the Election Commission.
It was alleged that the Uttar Pradesh Department of Culture has almost spent 90 per cent of its budget for erecting these statues.
The PIL had alleged that the activity was being carried out as a state policy, which is arbitrary and violative Article 14 of the Constitution.
The apex court had also noted the submission that "the huge public funds which are otherwise meant for improving the condition of millions of people living below the poverty line cannot be legitimately diverted for erecting statues and parks".