Mayawati defies critics over banknote garland

LUCKNOW: A regional politician who champions the cause

of poor and low-caste Indians courted controversy again today by appearing with a second garland

of banknotes worth

nearly $40,000.

Firebrand leftist Mayawati provoked a storm of outrage on Monday when she appeared with a garland stitched with 1,000-rupee notes at a celebration of 25 years of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

The ostentatious display led to noisy protests in the national parliament in New Delhi, calls for a police probe into where the money originated and condemnation from anti-poverty campaigners. Today, a defiant BSP again festooned Mayawati, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, with cash and vowed to greet her in a similar manner in future.

“We today presented another garland of 1.8 million rupees ($36,000) to the party supremo (Mayawati) collected by party units,” state Public Works Minister Naseemudin Siddiqui told reporters. “In future, wherever her programmes are held, we will welcome her with currency notes, if she permits us.”

Mayawati, a former schoolteacher known as the Dalit Queen for her defence of Dalit or low-caste Indians, has been criticised before for her spending.

The 54-year-old likes to drape herself in diamonds and shiny silk saris on her birthdays in what she calls displays of “self-respect.”