India's Mayawati denies sending jet for sandals
(AFP) – 3 hours ago
NEW DELHI — The Indian politician accused in US cables of sending her
private jet to pick up a pair of sandals denied the claims Tuesday,
and said the man behind the disclosures should be put in a mental
Mayawati, who only uses one name, is the populist leader of Uttar
Pradesh state, basing much of her support on India's marginalised
Dalit ("untouchable") community to which she belongs, and other poor,
US diplomatic papers released by the WikiLeaks website reported a
string of allegations about her lifestyle, including a claim that
"when she needed new sandals, her private jet flew empty to Mumbai to
retrieve her preferred brand".
Mayawati, 55, who rarely speaks to reporters, called a press
conference in the state capital Lucknow to condemn Australian-born
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing the confidential US
"Either he is mad or he is playing into the hands of our opposition," she said.
"He is doing such mischief deliberately. I request the government of
his country to put the owner of WikiLeaks into a mental asylum."
"The report is wrong, baseless and disgusting. It is aimed at
maligning my reputation and that of my honest party workers."
Mayawati also dismissed allegations that she had food tasters to guard
against being poisoned, saying "they would have to be cleaning
utensils in my kitchen to know such details".
The US cables dating from 2007 to 2009 said Mayawati celebrated her
birthday each year by receiving millions of dollars in gifts from
"sycophantic party members, civil servants and business people", while
officials vied to feed her cake.
They also described her as "a first-rate egomaniac" who was "obsessed
with becoming prime minister".
It added an account of Mayawati making a state minister do sit-ups as
punishment for a minor protocol error, and reported it cost $250,000
to run as her party's parliamentary candidate due to
Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) performed below expectations in
the 2009 national elections, winning 21 seats in the 543-seat
But the unmarried former schoolteacher, known as the "Dalit Queen" for
her loyal vote base, retains strong support among millions of
low-caste Indians across the north of the country.
Mayawati has often been criticised for extravagance, erecting huge
statues of herself in public parks and being greeted at rallies with
garlands made out of 1,000-rupee ($20) bank notes.
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