CM denies private jet allegation

Sept. 7, 2011 at 1:33 AM
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NEW DELHI, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- The chief minister of India's Uttar Pradesh state angrily denied an allegation she'd dispatched an empty private jet to Mumbai to bring back a pair of sandals.

Chief Minister Mayawati, a leader of the lower-rung Dalits under India's outlawed Hindu caste system, told reporters WikiLeaks' Julian Assange should be sent to a mental asylum after allegations about the private jet appeared in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.

"I would request the government of his country to send him (Assange) to a mental asylum" and if that country has no space for him, she could arrange to put him in her own state's mental hospital, Mayawati (who uses one name) was quoted as telling reporters, CNN reported.

The cable released on WikiLeaks allegedly described Mayawati as a "paranoid dictator" and said "when she needed new sandals, her private jet flew empty to Mumbai to retrieve her preferred brand," CNN reported.

Mayawati said she had no information "on when the plane was sent to Mumbai."

The BBC quoted Assange as demanding an apology, saying Mayawati had "betrayed rational thought."

He was quoted as saying he has been under house arrest in Britain but "would be happy to accept asylum, political asylum, in India -- a nation I love" and that in return he would "bring Mayawati a range of the finest British footwear."

The chief minister in the past has been accused of putting up statues of herself and other Dalit leaders at a heavy cost but she has accused her critics of conspiring against her.

CNN quoted another purported U.S. cable as saying: "Dalits will remain with Mayawati regardless of poor governance" as she is one of their own.

Uttar Pradesh is India's most populous state and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party won election there in 2007, allowing her to become the first Dalit woman chief minister.

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