Mayawati shelves grand birthday bashJanuary 14th, 2009 - 3:28 pm ICT by IANS
Lucknow, Jan 14 (IANS) Peeved over allegations that her party members collected huge sums of money for her birthday Thursday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati has decided to abandon her traditional bash as she turns 53. “No bash on my birthday this year,” she is believed to have told officials and followers who have always organised mega celebrations Jan 15, specially during her chief ministerial tenures.
Instead of the opulent display of her classy solitaires, she is now all set to gift to the state of 160 million people a slew of development oriented schemes worth over Rs.10 billion (Rs. 1,000 crore or $205 million) targeting the social sector.
Evidently, her objective is to send the message loud and clear that more than any bash, she is interested in the well-being of the downtrodden.
The cake-cutting ritual that was in the past followed by members of her inner coterie being granted the privilege of offering the cake to her, will not be a public affair this time. In 2008, state police chief Vikram Singh (in uniform) giving her a piece of cake was a glaring sight.
Even though a special 53 kg cake (to mark the 53rd birthday) is believed to have been ordered from the city’s top bakery, the ritual will be carried out in private - particularly sans the media.
Also, the usual repeat of the ritual in the national capital, New Delhi, later in the afternoon has been abandoned this time.
The 1956 born Dalit leader of Uttar Pradesh used to celebrate the day as Aarthik Sahayog Diwas (financial support day), with BSP leaders and workers making donations to the party.
There have been allegations that these donations actually came from money extorted by party workers, legislators and MPs from government officials and contractors of public works. She has been accused by opposition parties of keeping all this money for herself instead of passing it on to the party.
Her birthday this time has been overshadowed by the December murder of a public works engineer involving BSP legislator Shekhar Tiwari. The MLA allegedly lynched the engineer after he refused to donate Rs.5 million for the chief minister’s birthday.
Following this, her staunch opponent Samajwadi Party released a CD claiming that two senior BSP leaders had given Rs.2 million to a Delhi-based party member for distribution among 39 party workers. They were in turn told to make drafts of small amounts in the name of Mayawati, according to the CD.
Many in the party believe it is perhaps to avoid any controversy that Mayawati’s extravagant celebrations have been dropped this year.
A brief 30-minute programme has been planned at her official residence here for unveiling the schemes that will be displayed on granite plaques. The ceremony to be held in the presence of her ministers, senior officials and the media will be preceded by her speech. Unlike the past, there will be no cultural events either.