There was a time when Kumari Mayawati, India's 'Dalit Queen', could do no wrong. Now she is facing legal action and a public backlash from Dalits - or untouchables - Muslims and even some upper-class Hindus who helped her win a fourth term as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Ms Mayawati, 53, has been using public money to erect dozens of statues of her party's leaders, including six of herself, and 60 marble elephants, the symbol of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). And her subjects are not happy. Many officers in her coterie involved in her pet project and some party workers fear it will harm the party and damage her political fortunes. But none are game to speak openly against Ms Mayawati, who is known for punishing anyone going against her wishes. So it came as a shock last month when a group of lawyers took the plunge and filed a lawsuit in India's Supreme Court, seeking to stop Ms Mayawati's statues project, claiming she was 'misusing' public money urgently needed for public services in one of the poorest states. 'In such a state where the human development index is so low, each rupee should go for development,' Ravi Kant, an instigator of the lawsuit, said. He alleged that from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 state budgets, Ms Mayawati had allocated at least 20 billion rupees (HK$3.18 billion) for her pet project, which had 'no connection with development of the state'. The lawsuit also said 12.58 billion rupees of public money had been used 'to falsely glorify the chief minister'. The Supreme Court gave Ms Mayawati four weeks to respond to the allegations. While the Uttar Pradesh government is expected to file its reply on behalf of Ms Mayawati next week, another lawsuit filed last week in the state's top court says the statues - installed at busy intersections of the state capital, Lucknow - are much taller than permitted by law. It says the statues of Ms Mayawati and other Dalit leaders are up to six metres tall, rather than the legal one-metre limit, and are causing traffic chaos. This week the Supreme Court ruled the Uttar Pradesh government could raze a jail on a 100-hectare site to expand an ecological park built in the memory of the Dalit author of India's constitution, B. R. Ambedkar, but it could not erect any statues in it. It had been reported that the state government was planning to erect 'gigantic' statues of Ms Mayawati, her former mentor Kanshi Ram and Ambedkar in the ecological park. While it is hard to predict how Ms Mayawati will respond to Mr Kant's lawsuit, she has defended the statues as 'symbols of the emancipation of Dalits' and projected herself as a 'revolutionary leader'. Ms Mayawati has reportedly asked the party's general secretary and legal adviser, Satish Chandra Mishra, to 'explain to the courts the revolutionary social changes she has brought about in the feudal society of Uttar Pradesh'. 'Mr Mishra is in the process of explaining to the court that there is no difference between installing statues of Mahatma Gandhi or other leaders of the freedom struggle and my statues. 'He will tell the court that I am respected as a social worker, have revolutionary ideas and am considered a revolutionary leader by the society,' Ms Mayawati was reported as saying. Another party leader said Ms Mayawati, who calls herself a 'living goddess' at many Dalit rallies, was having her statues made in bronze, believing that hundreds of years after her death people will worship her as a deity. Ms Mayawati said this week that her critics just could not stand her popularity among the masses. 'They are attacking me simply because they are afraid of my popularity,' Ms Mayawati said, referring to her political rivals Congress and the regional Samajwadi Party (SP). 'These parks and statues will serve as beacons of inspiration for all Dalits and downtrodden. My critics cannot digest such revolutionary social changes.' Historian Mridula Mukherjee said statues should not be put up until history had judged a leader's actions and contributions. 'Mayawati's actions have taken that out of the hands of history. I would say that she should allow others to make the call on whether her contribution merits a statue or not.' Former senior police officer and Dalit activist S. R. Darapuri said Ms Mayawati had taken Dalits for a ride. 'She doesn't care for their welfare, she just exploits them emotionally. Her monuments are obscene, given the poverty of this state,' he said. After Ms Mayawati's party won state elections in 2007 with an overwhelming majority, she began proclaiming that she would create history by one day becoming India's first Dalit prime minister. 'I am the daughter of a Dalit, the daughter of India. I should be the PM. Uttar Pradesh is ours, now we are bound for Delhi,' she said, calling on supporters to help her reach the goal. Her BSP put up 503 candidates - the maximum allowed - nationwide in May's general election. But when the results were declared, Ms Mayawati received a jolt when her party won only 21 seats, all from Uttar Pradesh, where the BSP had contested all 80 seats. 'Her obsession with the statues and memorials has made her extremely unpopular in the state, among all communities, including her own Dalits. This is why in the latest parliamentary election her party finished third behind SP and Congress,' a newspaper editor said. 'She is living in a fool's paradise if she thinks that she will become prime minister one day. Everyone now knows how she has wasted many rupees of public funds just to fulfil her whims. 'They gave her a chance by electing her to power and she cheated them in return.'