Under fire for alleged extravagance, replete with a garland made of Rs. 1,000 currency notes, at the Bahujan Samaj Party's 25th foundation day celebration rally in Lucknow on Monday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Tuesday tried to put a lid over the controversy.
Setting at rest speculations over the garland's worth and the spirit behind its presentation, Ms. Mayawati's close aide and PWD, Excise and Irrigation Minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui issued a clarification stating that the garland was made of money contributed by the party workers of the Lucknow unit as a gesture of goodwill and loyalty to the party supremo.
Mr. Siddiqui said the garland was worth Rs. 21 lakh. It was earlier speculated that its worth could be up to Rs. 10 crore.
News reports on Monday had said that the garland was presented to the Chief Minister and party president by the Karnataka unit of the BSP. But, nobody was sure about the total count of the Rs. 1,000 currency notes which constituted the jumbo garland. According to eye-witness accounts at Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan, the venue of the rally, the garland after being presented to Ms. Mayawati was taken away in a red beacon car, which formed part of the Chief Minister's cavalcade.
Sources said there was a view in the ruling party and the Government that a clarification on the garland controversy should be issued late on Monday night itself. As there was some confusion over the clarification's timing, it was issued on Tuesday, sources added.
The issue has snowballed into a controversy with the Congress and the Samajwadi Party demanding a probe into the alleged extravagance at the rally.