Lucknow, Jan 7: The Chief Election Commissioner S. Y. Qureshi today ordered the draping of all statues of UP chief minister Mayawati and her party BSP's election symbol 'elephant' at public places in Uttar Pradesh, particulary in Noida and Lucknow, where Mayawati had erected special parks for Dalit luminaries, including herself.
Qureshi said, the order will be implemented with immediate effect.
This has been done to provide what he called "a level-playing field" to all stakeholders in the UP assembly elections.
BSP MP Shafiqur Rehaman Barq criticised the order saying that Mayawati was a politician who is still alive and the EC cannot force her to wear burqa from top to bottom and move out in public.
Barq said, this was a "Congress ploy" because the ruling party at the Centre fears a drubbing in the elections.
Congress, he alleged, wants to harass BSP supporters in UP, yet he was confident that BSP voters would definitely vote for the party.
Barq clarified that he was not criticising the EC decision. "EC may have its own opinion, I have my own opinion", he said.
The decision to drape the statues was taken at a meeting Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi held with senior officials of the Chief Electoral Office in UP.
Several opposition leaders complained to the EC about a week back that the numerous statues - of Maya and her party symbol - would give undue advantage to BSP as they were clearly promoting her party.
In fact, in October 2010, the EC, while dismissing petitions challenging BSP's use of the elephant as a symbol, had said that at the time of elections, the commission would take appropriate steps to ensure the statues do not disturb the level playing field and give undue advantage to BSP.
Once the order is passed, it would have the most visible impact in Lucknow and Noida where most of the statues have been erected.
According to a reply to an RTI query, there are nine statues of Mayawati in different memorials constructed in Lucknow.
Her tallest statue, a 24-feet bronze structure, is at the Pratibimb Sthal inside Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan sthal in Gomtinagar.
It cost the state exchequer Rs 1.44 crore.
The memorial has two more bronze statues of Mayawati : one inside the gallery and one in the main hall.
The statue in the gallery is 18-feet tall and cost Rs 47.25 lakh while the one in main hall is a modest nine feet and cost Rs 23 lakh.
Another statue of Mayawati, around 12 feet tall, is at Bhim Rao Ambedkar Samajik Pariwartan Sthal, Gomti Tatbandh.
The bronze statue cost the state Rs 20.25 lakh. This statue was once replaced with another after Mayawati spotted some defects in it.
Mayawati is the only leader in the country who ordered her own statues to be built, and they tower beside those of Gautam Buddha and B r Ambedkar in the many concrete parks constructed during her five-year rule to commemorate dalit icons.
BSP had claimed the statues were built to honour the wish of Mayawati's mentor, Kanshi Ram.