The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Birthday push for Mayavati

Lucknow, Jan. 8: If Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Congress president Sonia Gandhi can do it, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati can do it better.

The chief minister has decided to turn her birthday bash on January 15 into a spectacle “that will launch Mayavati on the centre-stage of national politics”, said a Bahujan Samaj Party leader involved in planning the celebrations.

Mayavati turns 47 that day.

Two functions have been planned for the occasion: a luncheon in Lucknow during the day and a dinner in New Delhi in the evening.

The lunch is being organised at the sprawling La Martinere school grounds opposite the chief minister’s Kalidas Marg residence, while the dinner is being held at New Delhi’s Talkatora stadium. The former is for commoners and the latter for VIPs.

“We want to give a clear message to the political class. Mayavati can now rub shoulders with those at the top of the national firmament,” the BSP leader said.

While the Lucknow bash will be confined to state leaders and BSP functionaries, the list of invitees for the dinner includes Vajpayee, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah.

Both the BSP and the state government are pooling resources to make Mayavati’s birthday a historic event.

BSP activists will observe January 15 as Swabhiman Diwas (Dignity Day) to ensure that the chief minister’s Dalit followers get the right message. Mayavati prefers to call it Arthik Sahyog Diwas (Money Contribution Day).

“I was born on January 15, 1956, and the party has decided to observe the day as Arthik Sahyog Diwas. Hence, I would like to appeal to you to extend your monetary support to the party on this occasion,” the chief minister said.

The appeal is printed on coupons worth Rs 500 and Rs 100, bearing the BSP logo and the address of the party’s headquarters in Delhi. The coupons have been issued on Mayavati’s behalf as the BSP national vice-president.

BSP workers in all 403 Assembly constituencies of Uttar Pradesh have been given coupons worth Rs 1 lakh, sources said. The party’s divisional coordinators and MPs have been asked to raise Rs 5 lakh each. BSP ministers have been given a higher target for collection.

The Opposition has reacted strongly against the BSP’s fund-raising campaign. “It is the first time that money is being collected in Uttar Pradesh on such a large scale in the name of a political leader’s birthday,” said state Congress chief Arun Kumar Singh Munna.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav accused Mayavati of “blatantly misusing state machinery to extort money from hapless citizens”. He alleged that some senior bureaucrats had been roped in for the purpose.

“I won’t be surprised if the coupons find their way to government functionaries at the grassroots level — the thanedar (police station in-charge) and the patwari (revenue official),” said a former chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh.

The clamour of disapproval has left Mayavati’s followers unmoved. “It’s not a crime to make the party financially sound. She is asking for contributions from her supporters because no industrialist or businessman will open his coffers for a Dalit party,” a senior BSP official said.

Mayavati’s plan has found supporters among a section of the bureaucracy. “I have seen tycoons coming with suitcases full of money to the houses of several CMs in the past and all that was supposed to go to the party funds. Why this hue and cry now'” asked a top bureaucrat of Uttar Pradesh.

The state administration has little to do with the fund-raising campaign. “Our task is to showcase the social change that has been brought about in UP,” said an officer in the state’s culture department, engaged in preparing for the Delhi bash.

State officials plan to stage a dance-drama titled Privartan at Talkatora stadium in which all the characters will be dressed in the party’s cobalt blue colour.

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