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Brickbats made me richer, says Mayawati

By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
Last updated on: January 15, 2009 16:26 IST
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Visibly peeved at widespread criticism about her partymen's indulgence in blatant extortion to prepare gift packets for her birthday today, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati sought to claim that far from causing any harm to her, the tirade had made her richer.

"Thanks to the venomous campaign launched by the Opposition to defame me and my party by terming the party fund-raising  on my birthday as extortion , I have received double the amount of what was gifted to me on January 15 last year," Mayawati declared at an unusually low-key celebration  at her official residence Thursday.

She claimed, "My partymen and supporters were provoked by the false and baseless allegations leveled by the entire opposition but because I do not allow them to indulge in cheap and dirty mudslinging , they got down to doubling their contributions on my birthday."

Draped  in a bright pink 'zari 'shalvar-kurta' and a brown-check long coat with a fresh hairdo and  a stylish  gold – ruby - diamond set in place of her usual strings of multiple dazzling solitaires , she was flanked on the dais by her party's Brahmin mascot and state advisory council chief Satish Chandra Misra and chief secretary Atul Kumar Gupta.

Unlike the past , there was neither a cake-cutting ritual nor the usual scramble by sycophant politicians , bureaucrats and top cops  to offer a piece to the birthday girl. Other than the 25-minute-long speech read out from a written text, the brief 35-minute programme included launch of a large number of development schemes , release of the 1500- page fourth part of her autobiography followed by a vote of thanks by  chief secretary Atul Kumar Gupta.

As if to make it loud and clear to all and sundry that this was a clear deviation from the past, she also rolled out a long list of development projects as well as a number of schemes for the economic upliftment and well being of the poor. As many as 33 granite plaques were unveiled for the new roads and bridges to be built in different parts of the state.

Making no bones about raising funds for the party, Mayawati said, "It is no secret that my birthday as well as that of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder Kanshi Ram is traditionally observed as fund-raising day for the party simply because ours is not a party like others who get their millions from industrialists and big business houses."

In the same vein she went about reiterating her clarification on the alleged extortion bid by her party MLA Shekhar Tiwari that culminated on the brutal murder of PWD executive engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta in Auraiya earlier last month.

"The entire exercise of associating Gupta's murder with some kind of extortion by my party leader was a pack of lies, unleashed by the opposition with the sole intent of defaming me and my party," she said.

As if to giving herself a clean-chit, she went on to add, "And let me tell you that the investigation carried out so far had made it amply evident that the incident did not have anything even remotely connected to  my birthday."

With a view to substantiating her argument, Mayawati sought to point out, "We have taken the severest action against each of the culprits involved in the murder;  even the victim's family was so convinced with it that they had withdrawn their earlier request for a CBI probe into the matter."

She said, "Gupta's family had met me only two days ago and expressed their satisfaction with the investigation."

Terming the opposition tirade against her as a blessing in disguise, she quipped, "I must express my gratitude to SP, BJP as well as the Congress for staging such melodrama against me that incited my supporters to make huge contributions on my birthday to the extent that the overall receipts had doubled in comparison to last year, the on-going recession notwithstanding."

And added a sarcastic note , "I wish the opposition continues with such protests and demonstrations in the future years too on my birthday – that will only make me richer."

While proclaiming, "All the collection would come in handy for use by her party at the next Lok Sabha elections", Mayawati cleverly avoided any mention of the amount she had received in the form of her "double" birthday hamper."

"Whenever the opposition has resorted to playing dirty politics against me, our party has only gained in the bargain", she claimed.

She said, "Take the case of the murderous attack on me by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his goons on June 2, 1996 - Mulayam had planned to get be killed, but it only resulted in his own political death as he was unseated from the chief minister's chair within the next 24 hours of that attack." 

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow