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Having Her Cake And Eating It Too

Having Her Cake And Eating It Too

Author: Srawan Shukla
Publication: Tehelka
Date: January 24, 2009
URL: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main41.asp?filename=Ne240109having_her.asp

Introduction: The Bahujan Samaj Party left no stones unturned in its quest for funds for Mayawati's birthday

As she turned 52 on January 15, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati added an estimated Rs 12 crore to Rs 15 crore to her personal wealth through donations and gifts on the occasion of her birthday, which was celebrated as Aarthik Sahyog Diwas (economic cooperation day).

Though Mayawati's birthday celebrations were low-key, keeping in mind the Mumbai terror attacks, donations poured in from across the country. Even the unsavoury December 25 incident, in which BSP MLA Shekhar Tiwari battered PWD executive engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta to death near Kanpur, did not stop her from accepting huge sums as gifts and donations from party workers and leaders on her birthday.

Party workers, MLAs, MPs, ministers and district presidents were all given collection targets. "It's an annual ritual to please behenji for her contribution to the BSP and dalits," admits a party leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Collection targets were increased 50 to 100 per cent this time, and were fixed last November. Each BSP MLA was asked to donate Rs 3 lakh. Ministers were directed to collect Rs 20 lakh to Rs 30 lakh from their respective departments, and MPs Rs 5 lakh. District presidents were asked to give Rs 2 lakh, up from Rs 1 lakh last year.

"I have submitted a draft of Rs 1 lakh," said Vimal Gautam, former BSP district president, Etawah. Talking to TEHELKA, Gautam said that each district donates about Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh every year to Mayawati for running the party. "There is nothing unusual or fishy about the donation drive. It has been on since Kanshi Ram's days," he clarifies.

Intriguingly, the party does not issue any receipts for the donations made to behenji on her birthday. "No receipt is required as these are personal gifts. It is the moral duty of each party worker to make contributions for the Bahujan Samaj mission and the party," points out Gautam, claiming that "no 'black money' is involved in the collection drive".

"The party records all donations. Accounts are duly presented during the national executive and are audited annually. Anyone can check the party balance-sheet," he says. However, neither Gautam nor any other BSP leaders can explain why these donations are being made to Mayawati's personal account instead of the party's account, if they were meant for running the party. They also remain mute when asked how Mayawati's personal wealth has swelled 400 times in less than four years. They remain silent when questioned about the large number of properties bpought in her own name and that of her numerous relatives.

Earlier, the party used to print Rs 100 denomination coupons when collecting birthday donations, but the practice was discontinued when a hue and cry was raised in 2003. Donations in the form of diamonds, gold and silver and other valuable goods were no longer accepted, as the party found it difficult to exchange them for hard cash and have them all accounted for.

As a result of the CBI investigations in a disproportionate assets case bought against Mayawati in 2004, cash donations in her name are now discouraged. However, most donations are made in small denominations from party workers, and are aggregated and converted into drafts and cheques from allegedly fictitious accounts by party fund managers. No cheques or drafts are accepted from persons without a PAN card. Each draft carries the name and PAN number of the donor and an affidavit to ensure that the donations are legally unchallengeable.

Donations came from across the country but being the home state, UP contributed the most. Donations from western UP and other states were collected at the party office in Delhi while funds from eastern UP came directly to the party headquarters in Lucknow.

Besides party ministers, MPs, MLAs, office-bearers and workers, donations came from bureaucrats, industrialists and contractors as well. Ever since a district magistrate was accused of forcing a PWD engineer to contribute to the birthday collection drive by a minister, bureaucrats are tight-lipped about the process.

Even government departments like the UP Rajkiya Nirman Nigam, the Public Works Department, the Power Department, UP Irrigation Department and the UP Pollution Control Board have not been spared. They are understood to have contributed their share, collecting donations from engineers and contractors.

A recently retired Chief Engineer told TEHELKA that they were given a target to raise Rs 1 crore by a BSP minister and a senior bureaucrat in the CM's Secretariat. "Naturally, this target was passed on to contractors and engineers who pooled in the money across the state for her birthday kitty," he confided. A PWD executive engineer claims that they raise funds similarly. Those who fulfil donation targets are rewarded with plum postings, he adds.

Samajwadi Party State President Shivpal Singh Yadav alleges that this year, the target for donations is a staggering Rs 100 crore. SP General Secretary Amar Singh released a CD to prove the party's charge and demanded a CBI inquiry and de-recognition of the BSP by the Election Commission. The CD exposes how BSP functionaries were given targets to collect donations on her birthday.

INTERESTINGLY, MAYAWATI and her trusted lieutenants openly admit that donations are being collected and have also been collected in the past. The UP Chief Minister has gone on record, saying that her personal wealth was raised through the donations from party workers. "No one is ever forced to make any donations on my birthday," she claimed, in a recent press conference.

"The BSP is not only a party but a mission and a movement for the uplift of the Bahujan Samaj. We take contributions from partymen to meet organisational and election expenses," says BSP State President Swami Prasad Maurya.

Unlike the SP, the Congress and the BJP, who accept secret donations from industrialists, we run our party with the contributions from BSP workers," clarifies Swami Prasad Maurya.

The Supreme Court ordered Maya - wati this week to answer within a month the CBI's charges about her disproportionate assets. Yet she accepted the donations without any qualms. In 2004, her personal wealth was Rs 1.35 crore. It rose to Rs 52 crore in 2008, her 52nd year. Birthdays for the UP Chief Minister Mayawati are very happy indeed.

- srawan@tehelka.com

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