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Mayawati garland had only Rs.21 lakh: BSP minister

After initial denials about Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati having been felicitated with a giant sized garland made of Rs.1,000 denomination currency notes at the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) rally here Monday, party leaders Tuesday said it contained only Rs.21 lakh, not Rs.5 crore.

Taking cognizance of the gift, the Income Tax department is said to have issued a notice to Mayawati.

"The garland had currency notes worth only Rs.21 lakh, that were contributed by a large number of party leaders and workers," Mayawati's close confidante and cabinet Minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui declared here Tuesday.

"The money for the garland was collected by party functionaries in Lucknow and we arranged to have a special garland made for our leader here itself," he told mediapersons, after the party's earlier denials were rebutted with huge pictures on TV as well as in print, clearly showing the currency notes.

Siddiqui refuted media reports about the garland having been gifted by BSP functionaries in Karnataka, where it was earlier stated to have been crafted.

When a journalist sought to draw his attention to a Karnataka BSP leader having gone on record Monday claiming that the garland was brought by him, Siddiqui said: "What I am telling you is the truth. I do not know of what and who made this claim from Karnataka."

Accusing the opposition of spreading all kinds of canard against the BSP, he said: "Well, the opposition has got the jitters after seeing the mammoth turnout at our rally, so they are bound to make wild allegations against us."

Asked what the party would do in the wake of the Income Tax probe ordered into the garland affair, Siddiqui said the party was "not scared of any inquiry as we have not done anything wrong".

Flatly denying the opposition charge that the rally was a "government sponsored affair" and that it entailed an expenditure of Rs.200 crore, he said that by no stretch of imagination, could it be such a whopping figure.

"Let me tell you, most of the work was undertaken by volunteers who worked without taking a penny in return to make the rally a grand success, which was what the opposition cannot digest," he added.

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