By Milind Dharmasena
New Delhi: Ahead of the 2022 Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, major political parties are drawing up their election agenda which now apart from social engineering also includes wooing the voters by installing statues and busts of their leaders.
While Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati is engaged in a tussle with the Supreme Court on the installation of statues of hers and elephant (party’s symbol), leaders of the Nishad community (who are fishermen and boatmen) and a key vote bank in the state have decided to immortalise “Bandit Queen” Phoolan Devi by having her bust installed in 18 cities of UP. Phoolan Devi represented the Nishad community. However, the move to install the busts has run into a controversy.
Phoolan Devi, a reformed bandit was elected to the Lok Sabha on a Samajwadi Party ticket from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh in 1996 and 1998. She was shot dead at her official bungalow in New Delhi on July 25, 2001 and her . assailants claimed they wanted to avenge the deaths of people she had killed as a bandit.
In the centre of the controversy is Mukesh Sahani, a minister in the Bihar government and claims to be the leader of the Nishad community, who wants to expand his Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) in UP.
Sahani launched the VIP in UP on July 2 and announced that besides installing Phoolan Devi’s statues in 18 cities of UP, her death anniversary will be observed every year on July 25. The VIP is a junior partner in the ruling alliance with Janata Dal (U) and BJP in Bihar.
On July 25, Sahani reached Varanasi to install Phoolan Devi’s statue but he was prevented from doing so. while the statue was seized by the police. Furious over the development, Sahani tried to register his protest by not attending the BIhar’s NDA’s meeting before the commencement of the legislature session on July 26.
Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson Abbas Haider reacting to the controversy told The NDC:“Phoolan Devi is a symbol of self respect and social justice .But why are these people bringing her name only during elections ? She should be remembered always for her sacrifice and works. I want to ask those trying to bring Phoolan Devi’s name during elections, what have they done to the Nishad community? They can give good education to girls in her community , improve the social stature of her community by making them entrepreneurs instead of being her only during elections .”