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Despite recession, got double last year's gifts: Maya

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | January 15, 2009 21:15 IST

Come January 15 and it is not unusual for Bahujan Samaj Party president and Uttar Pradesh [Images] Chief Minister Mayawati [Images] to show her paranoia � invariably on account of the perennial accusation that the collection of money for her birthday 'gift', more often than not, culminates into extortion.

What one finds rather contradictory was the fact that while Mayawati was quite candid about observing her birthday as aarthik sahyog diwas (financial support day), yet much hue and cry was raised each time someone from the opposition raises an accusing finger at her for using her birthday to fill her coffers.

Evidently, there was a very thin line between fund-raising and extortion. She may or may not be asking anyone to force people to shell out money, but her cronies were surely confident of extracting whatever they desired in the name of the birthday.

Another contradiction was visible in her claims about the quantum of cash given out by her contributors. While addressing her guests at Thursday morning's unusually low-key celebration at her official residence, she declared, "The total birthday gift amount received by me today on my 53rd birthday had doubled, despite the economic recession."

Mayawati's critics have been left wondering, "How could recession have any impact on her benefactors, who, according to her own admission, were drawn from the lowest economic strata of society?"

Samajwadi Party state general secretary Devendra Chaudhary was of the view, "Mayawati has unwittingly blurted out the truth that her financial supporters were moneyed industrialists and businessmen, who were naturally affected by the recession."

The chief minister's echoing assertions about not even a remote connection between my birthday and murder of PWD executive engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta by BSP MLA Shekhar Tiwari" was also uncalled for.

Yet, it was the murder controversy that dominated her 25-minute birthday speech. She took on off that very note attacking the opposition for making false and baseless allegations.

And what seemed to really give her the satisfaction of a last laugh on the issue was her proud proclamation: "The victim's family had withdrawn their earlier demand for entrusting the case to CBI."

Significantly, even where fund collection for her birthdays was concerned, it was none other than Mayawati who first spilled the beans. It was way back during her last stint in 2003, when she issued coupons of different denominations to raise funds on her birthday.

Signed by her in her then capacity of BSP national vice president, and issued in denominations of Rs 1000, Rs 500 and Rs 100, the coupons read as follows: "I was born on January 15, 1956. The party has decided to observe this day as fund collection day. I look forward to handsome donations from you."

At a press conference, when a scribe pulled out one such coupon from his pocket to seek Mayawati's reaction, she promptly gave out a justification, "Unlike the Samajwadi Party or the Congress, mine is not a party that enjoys support of moneyed industrialists and businessmen; we depend on contributions of our supporters, mostly drawn from the lowest downtrodden classes who earlier used to donate gold, silver and even diamonds."

She went on to add: "But then I told them that their gesture would not be of as much help to us as they intended because if I were to take the gold, silver or diamonds to a jeweler, he would take away at least 30 per cent as his cut; under the circumstances, it would make more sense if you were to instead, shell out direct cash that will go into the party fund."

Showing her discomfiture over the query, Mayawati lost her cool and went to the extent of threatening the inquisitive scribe with dire consequences, no sooner than he went a step further to draw her attention to the gross misuse of official machinery in the fund collection and even gave her details of the modus operandi adopted by a minister to meet the target of Rs 7 lakh then assigned to him.

A furious Mayawati shot back, "There is no misuse of official machinery; you are leveling a false allegation and if you dare to continue doing so, you will have to face the music; then don't start complaining that the chief minister is getting upset."

What followed was Mayawati leaving the hall in a huff and the journalists boycotting her lunch as a mark of protest to her blatant threat.

Even as the fund collection remains as open and blatant in 2009, there was one major changed in the situation vis-a-vis mediapersons � who were not given any opportunity to raise a single query.

Her show began and concluded with her monologue, leaving scribes guessing -- how much did she receive in the form of birthday gifts last year, which could give a clear idea of the sum received now.






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