| Among icons: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati at a news conference in New Delhi, where she justified state funding of her birthday bash. (AFP)
New Delhi, March 11: If Jawaharlal Nehru’s birthday can be celebrated as Children’s Day, S. Radhakrishnan’s as Teachers’ Day and Charan Singh’s as Farmers’ Day, why can’t Mayavati’s be observed as “Swabhimaan Divas”'
Installing herself alongside the Indian icons with this argument, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister today justified the ostentatious celebration of her birthday on January 15 as Swabhimaan Divas using funds from the state’s contingency reserve.
Mayavati, who arrived here to meet the Planning Commission deputy chairman, brushed aside criticism of her birthday bash. She said the expenditure was made “just like earlier governments had done to celebrate Jawaharlal Nehru’s birthday as Bal Divas, Chaudhury Charan Singh’s as Kisan Divas and S. Radhakrishnan’s as Shikshak Divas”.
The BSP leader assailed her political opponents as well as a section of the media who had questioned the celebrations and attributed their disapproval to a “casteist” mindset.
“I want to ask when parties celebrated Bal Divas and Kisan Divas, why no one had any problem' Now, when the birthday of a Dalit ki beti is celebrated as Swabhimaan Divas to highlight development works for Dalits, why is there so much talk about it'” she asked.
The chief minister, caught in a row after the rival Samajwadi Party released a videotape which showed her asking legislators to contribute to party coffers from their constituency development fund, said she was being targeted for being a Dalit and threatened a “fitting” reply to the upper castes.
She said Rs 76 lakh was taken from the contingency fund — and not the vivekadhin kosh (discretionary fund) as alleged — to celebrate Swabhimaan Divas and the centenary of the Allahabad Assembly constituency.
Her community was now in a position to celebrate her birthday on its own without relying on government money, Mayavati added. She charged the Opposition with raking up the celebrations now to “hide its own weaknesses” and accused political parties and the media of indulging in “false propaganda without thinking”.
Defending her birthday bash where she had turned up dazzling in diamonds, Mayavati asked why nobody bats an eyelid when upper-caste parties have meetings in five-star hotels or elite women wear diamonds but a hue and cry is raised when a “Dalit ki beti” does it.
“If this is not the thinking of (a) casteist mindset, then what is it' I will give a befitting reply when the time comes,” Mayavati said, adding that she will announce her plan of action in Lucknow tomorrow.
Asked why she was becoming a target of personal attacks, Mayavati said it was because the Samajwadi Party was losing mandate as proved by the recent byelections. She, however, refused to comment on the videotape controversy, describing it as a “political conspiracy” and saying she had already stated her position on that.