India leader in rupee garland row
Controversial Chief Minister of India's Uttar Pradesh state, Mayawati,
has been criticised for accepting a huge garland made entirely of
Ms Mayawati's supporters gave her the garland as a gift at her Bahujan
Samaj Party's silver jubilee rally on Monday.
It is made of new 1,000-rupee notes and is estimated to have cost
anywhere between $400,000 and $2m.
Ms Mayawati, who champions the cause of the poorest of the poor, is
criticised for amassing vast personal wealth.
She is India's first woman Dalit (formerly "untouchable"
minister and has a huge following among those at the bottom of the
Hindu caste system.
Calls for inquiry
Photographs of Ms Mayawati, wearing the rupee garland, appeared on the
front pages of Indian newspapers on Tuesday morning.
The issue was also raised in parliament, with MPs from different
parties criticising what they said was a vulgar display by Ms
"We appeal to the government to take cognisance of the money that is
being spent, or rather, misspent in the rally. And millions' worth of
the garland that she accepted should be inquired into," senior
Congress party leader Digvijay Singh said.
A leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rajnath
Singh, said: "I just want to say that state funds and resources have
been misused in Uttar Pradesh in every form. And I want the government
to take action in this case at the earliest."
It is estimated that nearly 400,000 supporters attended the rally in
the Uttar Pradesh state capital, Lucknow, on Monday. The city was
draped in blue (the colour of Ms Mayawati's party) for the
A former school teacher, Ms Mayawati is one of India's most colourful
politicians. She has governed Uttar Pradesh and its 180 million people
since state elections in 2007.
In the past few years, she has amassed massive personal wealth,
developing a fondness for lavish birthday parties and diamond
She has been taken to court for commissioning massive statues of past
Dalit icons and herself at great public expense.
Ms Mayawati's critics accuse her of wasting precious government funds
in one of India's most backward states.
Uttar Pradesh has soaring crime, poor health services and very high
Ms Mayawati appears unfazed by all the criticism and has spoken many
times about her ambition to be prime minister of India.
Her party denied claims on Monday that state funds had helped pay for
Monday's festivities, saying it had footed the bill.
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