New Delhi: Snubbing criticism of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati wearing a garland of currency notes at a public rally two days ago, the party gifted her another garland of notes it said was worth Rs18 lakh at a Lucknow news conference on Wednesday.
“Wherever she goes, she will henceforth be greeted with garlands of notes and not with garlands of flowers,” party leader and state public works minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui told reporters.
On Monday, a garland of Rs1,000 notes had been put around the Uttar Pradesh chief minister at a rally organized to mark 25 years of the foundation of the BSP, sparking outcry from opposition parties. The garland’s worth was variously estimated from Rs21 lakh to Rs5 crore.
Undeterred by criticism: BSP chief Mayawati being presented a garland of currency notes, which the party said was worth Rs18 lakh, in Lucknow on Wednesday. Nand Kumar/PTI
“It was a vulgar display of money,” Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said. The Samajwadi Party demanded a probe into the source of the money. The two parties also stalled Parliament on Tuesday over the issue.
Analysts said such public displays of vast sums of money is the BSP leader’s way of driving a wedge between her opponents and the Dalit voters they are trying to woo away from her.
The Congress, in particular, has been courting Dalits, who comprise one-fifth of the state’s population. Before last year’s general election, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited Dalit homes and staged a series of public meetings.
The impact showed, and the Congress won 22 of Uttar Pradesh’s 80 Lok Sabha seats, up from nine in the previous elections. The BSP, which had been hoping to go past the 40-mark, won only 20.
Now, with assembly elections two years away, Mayawati is hitting back—with currency garlands, as well as tens of costly statues of hers and past Dalit leaders in parks around the state.
Criticism of Mayawati’s showing off money allows her to expose the claim of her opponents that they want to improve the lot of Dalits as a sham, an expert said.
“The message that would ultimately be conveyed to the BSP cadre is that while Congress and the media managed by them exalt Rahul Gandhi’s move to picture Dalit homes suffering from poverty and paucity; it does not take it well when a Dalit lady is pictured as rich,” said Vivek Kumar, associate professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Badri Narayan, senior faculty member at GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad, said a hostile media always worked in favour of Mayawati.
“She and her cadre is convinced that the media and the centres of power are controlled by the upper caste,” he said. “Every bit of criticism against Mayawati translates into a new loyal vote for the BSP.”
PTI contributed to this story.