Indian minister has $16m birthday bash

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 12:00am

The chief minister of the impoverished Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati Kumari, celebrated her 47th birthday in style - with the help of 25,000 citizens and more than $16 million from the public purse.

On the lawns of Lucknow's La Martiniere public school, in a temporary venue erected by the public works department complete with mirror-studded temporary ceiling and chandeliers, Ms Kumari, accompanied by ministers and the entire top bureaucracy of the state government she heads, cut a 100kg cake.

Guests were served a multi-course meal and handed packets of ladoos - traditional Indian sweets. Those who brought presents received gifts in return from the chief minister's helpers.

It is not uncommon for public figures in India to throw lavish parties to mark their son's or daughter's wedding but it is the first time that a chief minister's birthday has been celebrated on such a grand scale.

Opposition leader Mulayam Singh Yadav branded the celebrations obscene in a state where 400 poor people have frozen to death this month in a cold snap. 'Today is a black day . . . the Samajwadi Party will sue the chief minister for misusing her office,' he said.

Ms Kumari came to power last year in India's most populous state promising to deliver social justice to the poor and the downtrodden. She belongs to the Bahujan Samaj Party which claims to represent low-caste Dalits, India's most downtrodden.