South Asia

Wikileaks: India's Mayawati 'sent jet to collect shoes'

Mayawati wearing a garland of 1,000 rupee notes in March 2010
Image caption Ms Mayawati has sparked controversy for building statues of herself

The chief minister of India's Uttar Pradesh state sent an empty private jet to get a pair of sandals from Mumbai, leaked US diplomatic cables say.

Ms Mayawati, an icon to millions of low-caste Dalits, rules over India's most populous state which is also one of the poorest in the country.

But the cables on whistleblower site Wikileaks described her as "obsessed with becoming Prime Minister".

Ms Mayawati or her office is yet to respond to the leaked cables.

An official in the state government told the BBC the government was unlikely to respond.

Cables, dated 23 October 2008 and marked confidential, are among the latest set of documents released by Wikileaks in recent days.

"When she needed new sandals, her private jet flew empty to Mumbai to retrieve her preferred brand," the cables say.

They add that the chief minister is paranoid about her security and "fears assassination" and employs "food tasters" to guard against poisoning.

She maintains a "vice-like grip on all levels of power" and all decisions must run through her or a small group of advisors, the releases say.

Ms Mayawati has sparked controversy for building statues of herself and other Dalit icons, but she denies encouraging a personality cult.

In the last few years, huge concrete parks have been built in the state capital, Lucknow, and Noida, a Delhi suburb, with scores of massive stone statues of Ms Mayawati dotting the landscape.

Statues of political leaders are generally put up posthumously, but Ms Mayawati says that belief is outdated.

Critics accuse her of self-glorification. She accuses them of conspiring against her.

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