Mayawati’s public display of wealth or affection?
Garlands of flowers have been a standard greeting for politicians in India. Ceremonies and inaugurations with a political leader as chief guest mean more prosperity to florists than anyone else.
Most of these garlands get swept aside or badly crushed. But not the one recently presented to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.
The several metres long garland made up of 1,000 rupee notes is now garnering scrutiny from Income Tax sleuths of the country.
Mayawati’s detractors strongly believe that this wanton display of wealth by her party subverts the tenets of the Indian Constitution.
What further stokes the anger of critics is the Uttar Pradesh government’s incapacity to look after victims of a tragedy while continuing to spend large sums of money on towering statues and party functions.
The chief minister had recently drawn flak from several quarters for being unable to provide compensation to families of as many as 65 people who died in a stampede after a temple gate collapsed in her state.
Many in the country, including leaders from opposition parties, suggest that Mayawati should be charged on count of misallocating funds from the exchequer’s coffers.
Mayawati’s supporters say her acts are a source of inspiration to millions of Dalits who have traditionally been forbidden from displays of well-being and fill them with a sense of pride.
Even if this entire act is supposed to reinforce the party’s image among followers, should an elaborate display of wealth — folded currency notes strung together — be a means to provide that fillip?
Extravagant celebrations and ostentatious display of wealth have always caught Mayawati on the wrong foot. But not when it comes to paying tax.
In 2007-08, having paid a tax of 260 million rupees, Mayawati emerged as the top taxpayer among politicians.
Cases of amassing wealth disproportionate to known sources of income hound several in the political firmament.
But Mayawati’s supporters have dismissed corruption charges by saying the money came from donations. Two days after the first cash garland, she was presented another garland of notes in a show of solidarity.
Should there be a law to prevent such displays of wealth, similar to one that caps spending by a party during election canvassing?