The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Charity begins at b’day bash

New Delhi/Lucknow/Mumbai, Jan. 23: Cakes, crackers and kanyadaan.

For some politicians, birthdays are when you reveal the empathetic heart that beats for the not-so-fortunate.

Amar Singh is one of them.

The Samajwadi Party general secretary is planning to cut his cake in a way that would make people believe in his socialist credentials.

Amar, who turns 51 a day after this billion-strong republic celebrates its 57th birthday, has decided to marry off 51 girls from poor families.

Sources close to Amar said the Uttar Pradesh leader and his wife, Pankaja Kumari Singh, would perform the “kanyadaan” after a special “Bhagwati pujan” at the Vindhyavasini temple in Mirzapur district.

A grand tent is coming up near the shrine and the temple complex has been spruced up. A posse of 51 pundits from Varanasi and Allahabad has already visited the spot and directed the organisers to dig 51 pits for the yagna. A tent has been set up for relatives of the brides.

Amar’s birthday-cum-bleeding-heart bash would come close on the heels of two others celebrations that spanned Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow.

Political rival Mayavati, who also turned 51 last week, not only had her cake in Delhi but also turned the January 15 bash into an occasion to assert Dalit power. The BSP leader also asked party leaders to cut 1.5-tonne cakes each in every Assembly constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

In Mumbai today, Bal Thackeray didn’t urge his supporters to cut cakes. But party workers were told to deposit the amount they would have spent on garlands and other things in a deposit box outside Matoshree, the high-security residence of the Shiv Sena founder who turned 80.

The supporters burst 80,000 crackers, cut an 80 kg chocolate cake and displayed an 80-foot-long rangoli of the Sena patriarch’s picture.

Among those who wished him were actors Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Dev Anand and Hema Malini, industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Rahul Bajaj, BJP stalwart L.K. Advani, former Pakistan cricketer Javed Miandad, filmmakers Ram Gopal Varma and Madhur Bhandarkar, and singer Asha Bhonsle.

“Balasaheb should celebrate a century!” wrote Mukesh Ambani in the special 48-page supplement brought out by Sena mouthpiece Saamna.

“He has loved me like a son. His impression on my life will never be erased…the impression will last forever,” Sanjay penned.

“Whenever obstacles dipped my morale, a meeting with Balasaheb or his phone call worked like a magic wand,” wrote Amitabh.

Failing health and a perennial security threat kept the celebs from visiting the Sena boss, but the Big B and his family will be there in person for Amar’s kanyadaan.

Amitabh, Jaya, son Abhishek and his would-be bride Aishwarya Rai have already committed themselves to joining the holy prayer at the Vindhyavasini temple. The weddings would be also blessed by Anil Ambani’s wife Tina and actress Preity Zinta.

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