‘Maya sent empty jet to Mumbai for sandals’
New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and head of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Mayawati sent her private jet to pick up a pair of sandals, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.
US embassy cables from 2007 to 2009 released by the WikiLeaks website in recent days describe Mayawati, 55, as "a first-rate egomaniac" who "is obsessed with becoming Prime Minister".
They said Mayawati celebrated her birthday each year by receiving millions of dollars in gifts from "sycophantic party members, civil servants and business people" while officials vie for a chance to feed her cake.
"When she needed new sandals, her private jet flew empty to Mumbai to retrieve her preferred brand," a cable dated October 23, 2008 reported, adding she employed food tasters to guard against poisoning.
"She constructed a private road from her residence to her office, which is cleaned immediately after her multiple vehicle convoy reaches its destination," the cable said in an analysis of her "eccentricities, whims and insecurities".
It added an account of Mayawati making a state minister do sit-ups in front of her as punishment for a minor protocol error, and reported it cost $250,000 to run as a BSP parliamentary candidate due to "institutionalized corruption".
Mayawati and the BSP performed below expectations in national elections in 2009, winning just 21 seats in the 543-seat parliament, but she retains strong support among the poor.
She has often been criticised for extravagance, erecting huge statues of herself in public parks and being greeted at rallies with garlands made out of Rs 1,000 (20-dollar) notes.
The unmarried former schoolteacher did not immediately respond to the allegations made in the cables.
In her current term, Mayawati has run Uttar Pradesh since May 2007 and was also Chief Minister from 2002 to 2003.