This Article is From Apr 02, 2010

Mayawati's garland worth Rs 22.5 crore, says Congress

Lucknow: As speculation continues over how much the garland placed around Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's neck on Monday cost and who footed the bill, the Congress claims it's worth a whopping 22.5 crore rupees. (In Pics: Lucknow painted blue for Mayawati's mega rally)

Speaking to NDTV's Barkha Dutt on the Buck Stops Here, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh accused Mayawati of destroying evidence to avoid an Income Tax probe. He also said he had calculated the number of notes used in the garland. (Watch: Congress accuses Maya of destroying evidence)

"I had it calculated - this garland. Each ring of this garland has 45 notes of 1000 denomination, i.e 45,000 rupees. Each centimeter has got five such rings. 5 x 45,000 is Rs 2,25,000. This garland is 10 meters long i.e. 1000 cm. So 2.25 lakh x 1000 becomes Rs 22 crore 50 lakh. So there is a reason why I came to this figure," he said.

Meanwhile, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has accused opposition parties of unnecessarily raking up the issue of garland made of currency.

The party further said the tradition of felicitating leaders by offering them or weighing them in money is followed by all political parties since long.

NDTV sources say that the garland has now been dismantled and the money transferred to party account.

Sources have told NDTV that BSP is open to an inquiry. BSP leaders, however, allege that this is the Centre's (Congress led UPA government) way of targeting the party because of its successful rally.

BSP party workers say the garland made of thousand rupee notes is "with the Chief Minister of UP, where it belongs". (Read: Maya's 200-cr rally, despite Bareilly tension)

Thegarland was placed around Mayawati's neck on Monday at a silver jubileecelebration for the Bahujan Samaj Party. It was so lavish that itseemed over-the-top even at a rally that cost 200 crores. Money, herparty adds quickly, that came from its own donors and members, and notfrom taxpayers. (Read: Cong, BJP demand probe into Mayawati's mala)

The Income Tax department says it will investigate who paid for it, and how. (Read: Maya's money garland: Income Tax Department begins probe)

NaseemuddinSiddiqui, a minister in Mayawati's government, says the garland "camefrom the Lucknow unit (of the BSP) and was made with the contributionsof the workers here. We are all a part of it...its cost is 21 lakhrupees."

That's a revision of an earlier BSP estimate that said the necklace was worth 11 lakhs.

While Mr Siddiqui reiterated that the garland was made in Lucknow NDTV sources say it wasmade in Karnataka.

BSP is also reported to have discussed the legal opinion on the issuein its meeting, that was held at Mayawati's residence on Tuesday inLucknow.

AngryOpposition leaders claim the garland is worth several crores. Siddiquisays their math is incorrect. "If someone has counted the money, theyshould tell us.... the Opposition is threatened by the success of therally and the party and that's why they are making these baselessallegations." (Read: Opposition slams Mayawati)

Siddiquisays the BSP actually chose a more refined way of valuing its leader.Other parties, he points out, weigh their leaders in coins. This wasmore practical. He adds, "In all parties, packets of money arepresented to leaders...they are only troubled because it's a Dalitparty and Mayawati is a Dalit's daughter. This is hypocrisy."