Syed Firdaus Ashraf and photographer Hitesh Harisinghani hit the road in politically critical Uttar Pradesh.
'Ek Shahenshah ne banwa ke haseen Taj Mahal, hum garibon ki mohabbat ka udaya hai mazak’
This beautiful Urdu couplet written by poet Sahir Ludhianvi says, "Emperor Shah Jahan constructed Taj Mahal and made fun of the love of poor souls like us."
What Shah Jahan did for the Mughals, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati is replicating today. Huge statues of Dalit leaders like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and the late Bahujan Samaj Party founder Kanshi Ram have been built in Lucknow or are under construction at various places in the state capital.
Take a tour of Lucknow and you cannot miss the statues of Dalit leaders, all more than 50 feet tall.
Memorials to Dalit leaders exist all over Luucknow. There is the Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal in Gomti Nagar and the Kanshi Ram Bahujan Nayak Park in South Avenue. Then there is the Kanshi Ram Memorial at Jail Road and the Samajik Parivarthan Prasthal at Gandhi Sethu.
There are statues of Mayawati too.
And, of course, there are other three huge 50 feet tall statues that are covered with blue cloth (the colour of the Bahujan Samaj Party) that could not be inaugurated because of the Election Commission's Model Code of Conduct.
"In today's time no leader who is alive wants to have his or her statue made, but this is Mayawati. She has constructed eight of her statues in Lucknow," says Hirday Narayan Dikshit, state vice-president, Bharatiya Janata Party. "The only other leader who constructed his own statue while alive was Saddam Hussain and Mayawati is following him."
Image: Statues of Mayawati and her mentor Kanshi Ram at the Samajik Parivartan Pratik Sthal in Lucknow.
Also listen: The Songs of Mayawati | India Votes 2009