The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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For the oppressed, covered in diamonds
- govt plays host at mayavati birthday bash

Lucknow, Jan. 15: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati today celebrated her 48th birthday in style at a grand function on the La Martiniere grounds here, brushing aside accusations of using the occasion to “mint” money.

“My birthday will continue to be celebrated as fund-raising day by party workers,” the Bahujan Samaj Party leader said in an open challenge to Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party observed the day as “Durbhagya Diwas” (a day of ill luck).

Even her ally, the BJP, did not get a warm welcome. Her rakhi brother, urban development minister Lalji Tandon, was the only BJP leader on the dais when Mayavati cut the 51-kg birthday cake in the presence of a huge crowd. Senior BJP leader and state minister Om Prakash Singh, who had come to wish her, was shown the door after he had said his piece.

Tandon’s remarks — “we have to collectively fulfil the dreams of (B.R.) Ambedkar, who toiled throughout his life to better the lives of the Dalits and the oppressed” — was a clear indication that the BJP is prepared to play to Mayavati’s tune in Uttar Pradesh.

The Lucknow bash began with Mayavati, dressed in a pink salwar suit, cutting the cake and distributing colour TVs — sponsored by Bharat Petroleum — to women heads of 47 Ambedkar villages. She wore a diamond necklace, diamond-studded earrings and bracelets that had diamond coating over gold.

From the hordes of arches set up in different parts of the city to the huge pandal with a glittering stage at the college ground, everything was painted blue — the colour of the BSP flag. The city walls had been painted blue in advance and blue party flags and buntings fluttered all over the state capital.

It was obvious that the public works department, the Lucknow Development Authority and the culture and information department had spared neither money nor manpower to make the occasion memorable. Chief secretary D.S. Baga was the official host.

But most impressive was the turnout. BSP workers had started pouring in from the morning, braving dense fog and bone-chilling winds. “It was not a show of strength but a show of appreciation,” said a party worker.

Ek hi tamanna, apne hathon ab Lal Quila par jhanda phehrao (we have only one wish, that you unfurl the Tricolour at the Red Fort),” a balladeer summed up the feelings of her supporters who want to see her on the centre-stage of national politics.

“The government is observing my birthday as Swabhiman Diwas and throughout my life, I will work for ensuring self-respect among Dalits and the downtrodden,” Mayavati said.

BSP president Kanshi Ram recounted how the party collected money from supporters in its early days and how it had evolved into a national party in a short time. “Today, the BJP is the number one party, followed by the Congress and we are the third. We want more money to run the party and take it to the first position on the national scene,” he said, exhorting party workers to collect more funds.

After attending the Lucknow function and opening the Rs 200-crore Ambedkar Smarak to the public, Mayavati left for Delhi, where an even grander bash was held at Talkatora stadium with BJP national leaders in attendance.

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