There won’t be any cake or gifts for Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati on her 61st birthday. Even the usual pomp and show will be missing on January 15 next year just before the crucial assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
The BSP is known to celebrate Mayawati’s birthday in a grand way with cakes weighing as much as her age and huge garlands. Before her birthday, party workers launch a massive fundraising campaign across the state. Each MP and MLA are given a target to collect a certain amount of money.
After the month-long campaign, party leaders hand her a money bag with crores of rupees as a gift on her birthday. The money is used for the party’s election campaign. After cutting the cake, Mayawati addresses party leaders and workers.
However, the birthday celebrations will not be the same this year.
“Chances are strong that the Election Commission (EC) will announce the schedule of the assembly election by the year end. The model code of conduct will come into force immediately. The party cannot celebrate the birthday of ‘behenji’ with the usual gaiety. We have decided to celebrate her birthday in a simple manner in each district,” BSP state unit president, Ramachal Rajbhar, told Hindustan Times.
A BSP leader, who did not wish to be named, said demonetisation has also played a spoilsport.
“There is cash crunch post-demonetisation and people with large cash have come on the radar of the Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate and other agencies. The donation campaign has been shelved. If a leader wishes to give fund, he can deposit it in the party coffer,” a zonal coordinator said on basis of anonymity.
As the celebrations will be a low-key affair, the party might direct workers to take a pledge to ensure BSP’s victory in the assembly elections to keep them in an upbeat mood, an office bearer said.
Before her 60th birthday this year, Mayawati asked party workers to keep the event simple and connect with the common people in a meeting with senior party leaders, zonal and divisional coordinators. She also asked party office bearers to ensure that there was “nothing loud”.
The BSP has been celebrating the day as ‘Jankalyankari Diwas’ or Public Welfare Day and party leaders are asked to connect with the needy and the poor. They also visit Dalit villages and hospitals and distribute fruits and blankets among the poor.
“We will not visit hamlets or hospitals to distribute sweets and fruits,” a senior leader said.
Mayawati’s birthday celebrations in the past have been extravagant often courting controversy over the expenses incurred.
In 2010 when Mayawati was the chief minister, opposition parties attacked her over the gift of a cash garland worth Rs 25 crore given by party leaders on her birthday.