Dozens of statues of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and numerous that of elephants (which also happens to be ruling Bahujan Samaj Party's election symbol) in and around parks and memorials built by her in Lucknow and Noida were being hurriedly veiled from Monday morning by officials in pursuance of the Election Commission's order.
While the implementation of Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi's announcement in this regard had begun in a symbolic manner on Sunday evening itself, the deadline of January 11 fixed by the commission has propelled the administrative machinery to really get into action from Monday morning.
"The task is huge and would require both procurement of material and arrangement of manpower," says Lucknow District Magistrate Anil Kumar Sagar. "We will do our best to get the work completed latest by Wednesday evening" he adds.
With such an order to cover statues of all other political leaders and icons having come for the first time before any election in the country, the issue has sparked off a debate across poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
While opposition parties are thrilled over getting the EC to concede their demand for veiling of Mayawati's statues, the ruling BSP has taken strong exception to the move.
"That the right step to have been taken; after all Mayawati's statues are all over the place together with those of elephants in the several parks and memorials created by her with government funds worth thousands of crores; how could those be kept open when we are not even allowed to put up posters or bannersm," argues Samajwadi Party leader Shiv Pal Yadav.
BSP spokesman Swami Prasad Maurya however considers it absolutely unfair. "If elephants have to be wrapped up because elephant is also the BSP symbol and EC thinks the statues can influence the voter, then why don't they cover every lotus in ponds and not allow any individual on the street to raise his hand," he asked.
Political analysts are however of the view that the move could prove counter-productive and ultimately help Mayawati to consolidate her Dalit vote bank.
"I would not be surprised if Mayawati would try and twist this to gain sympathy by raising her usual 'Dalit ki beti (Dalit's daughter)' bogey to impress upon her voters that she was being targeted simply because she was a Dalit and that tomorrow if she was voted out, the opposition could even pull down all those statues," observes veteran journalist P C Tandon.