LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati is out to fulfil another of her pet projects - a memorial in the name of noted Tamil social reformer E.V. Ramaswamy Periyar, who was also an atheist.
Periyar, who founded the 'Self-Respect Movement' way back in the mid-1920s in Tamil Nadu and also launched a major drive against untouchability, was one of the main icons of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Having failed to fulfil her dream of installing Periyar's statue during her last stint as chief minister in 2002, Mayawati is all set to see her plans through now.
Without having to come directly into the picture this time, she has got the Lucknow University executive council to take a decision to set up a Periyar Memorial on the campus. The social reformer had visited the university in 1957.
While confirming that such a project was in the pipeline, Lucknow University Vice chancellor R.P. Singh maintained: "A memorial had been duly approved by the executive council long back, but neither have any funds been released for it nor has anyone cared to raise the issue in the preceding years."
He added: "But we are going to take it up now."
Significantly, none other than Vinay Katiyar, then state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president, had raised opposition against Mayawati's earlier proposal to install a statue of Periyar.
Katiyar had thundered: "If Periyar's statue is installed in Lucknow, that would mark the end of the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh."
Since the then Mayawati government was supported by BJP, she had to not only abandon her plans but was compelled to go on record to state, "Who said we ever had any plans of installing Periyar's statue in Lucknow or for that matter anywhere in UP.
Periyar belonged to the south, so if we have to install his statue, we will do so there so that we can get some benefit out of it. Why should we do it here, where no one knows him."
Periyar, who is infamous for derogatory references to Lord Ram and praises for Ravana in his rewritten 'Ramayan', which he called "the true Ramayan", has remained on the "most hated" list of the BJP which pegged all its politics on Lord Ram.
Mayawati is keenly pursuing her key dream project - a Rs.5 billion Ambedkar Memorial in Lucknow. Earlier this month, she had made an abortive midnight bid to raze Lucknow's Ambedkar sports complex to extend the adjoining Ambedkar park.