On Wednesday Mayawati, who was laden with diamond jewellery, celebrated her 47th birthday in such style that it would have put many tycoons to shame. To top it all, the entire event was 'official', thanks to a government order through which around ten departments and organisations were asked to prepare for the celebrations.
A 51kg cake, 100,000 ladoos, 60 quintals of marigold flowers and around 5,000 bouquets were among the few highlights of the day, which was declared as swabhiman diwas [self-respect day].
Demand for both marigold beads and bouquets, many of which were made of orchids and lilies from Holland, beat all records.
Shamim Shamshi, Lucknow's leading florist, said, "What was unique this time was that the buyers were going in for the most expensive bouquets and baskets -- anything ranging between Rs1000 and Rs5000."
The bulk of the buyers were her ministers, legislators, functionaries, bureaucrats and police officers, whom she has been shuffling like a pack of cards ever since she assumed the chief minister's office for a third stint eight months ago.
In her dual capacity as Bahujan Samaj Party vice-president, Mayawati had issued signed coupons, which had arthik sahyog diwas [monetary support day] printed on them, to party functionaries, ministers, legislators as well as government officials and policemen for collecting funds for the occasion.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, her political rival, said around Rs50 crore were spent on the occasion.
Even by conservative estimates, the show would have cost the state exchequer around Rs10 crore.
Many parts of the state were painted blue, the colour of her party.
The sprawling field of the 158-year-old La Martiniere College at Lucknow, where a grand shamiana was put up to accommodate around 30,000 'special' invitees, was surrounded by giant cutouts of Mayawati.
Kanshi Ram, her mentor and BSP chief, and Lalji Tandon of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is a member of the ruling coalition, were on stage when Mayawati cut the cake.
The 40X60 feet stage was reminiscent of Bollywood blockbuster Mughal-e-Azam. "Yes, we have tried to copy the sets shown in a sequence from the legendary film when heroine Madhubala dances..." Janardhan, the architect of the stage, said.
He said, "I am a BSP worker and it was not the money. It is my salutation to Mayawati who is an embodiment of social change."
There were many ballads in praise of Mayawati and her achievements during the three-hour show.
The bitter cold, which has already killed 367 people in the state, kept the lesser mortals away. And those who attended were deprived of the opportunity to hand over their modest bouquets and garlands to the chief minister. They were given three booklets on the life and 'achievements' of Mayawati and they had to be content with that.
Mayawati did not invite her political rivals. Senior BJP leaders only received a printed invitation signed by the state chief secretary. "When she did not care to attend the modest birthday celebrations of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on December 25, then why should she expect us to respond to her ritualistic invitation," asked a senior BJP functionary.
There were also two exhibitions on the chief minister. While there were a few pictures of her father, mother, six brothers and two sisters, Kanshi Ram's snap was not around.
The celebrations will not end here. There will be a cultural extravaganza at New Delhi's Talkatora Stadium in the evening.