Brazen act

The ostentatious display of money at a rally in Lucknow that marked the silver jubilee of the founding of the Bahujan Samaj Party has become controversial and received unflattering national attention. The issue was raised in parliament, the government has promised to look into the issue and the income tax department has launched an investigation. The worth of the garland of 1000-rupee notes that was used to felicitate the party supremo Mayawati on Monday was variously estimated to be between Rs 21 lakh and Rs 22 crore. The uproar from other parties has not fazed either the BSP or Ms Mayawati, as another garland of Rs 18 lakh followed on Wednesday and it was declared that in future all felicitations will be in terms of currency. But if the party feels there is nothing wrong in greeting its leader in public with a load of money, why was the man who made the disclosure about the multi-crore homage sacked? Perhaps there was no need for him to spill the beans, when even the bees had been misled by the announcement that the garland was made of flowers. The party in any case decided to brazen it out when what was thought to be flowers from Mysore was revealed as paper printed there.

That brazenness has become the hallmark of Mayawati’s policies in politics and in government. The erection of hundreds of statues of herself, the party’s founder Kanshi Ram and its symbol elephant at public expense has long been a scandal. The supreme court has intervened in the matter but there are many ways of getting around the court. There have been serious corruption charges against Mayawati but she has hardly been damaged by them. There have been public disclosures about her huge property holdings, collection of jewellery and scores of bank accounts. Claims that all these are gifts from supporters and tokens of love from admirers do not jell.

The garlands of money and all the past revelations about accumulation of wealth raise disquieting legal, moral and political questions. Money greases the politics of all parties and there is hardly a politician whose finger is not in the public till. People have even accepted corruption as a factor of public life. But even such cynicism is offended by Mayawati’s conduct. She and her party speak for the most deprived sections of people in the country. But the garlands of money on her shoulders tell a different story.

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