A controversial Indian mining tycoon has taken over a royal palace and flown in Brazilian dancers at a reported cost of $75 million to celebrate his daughter's wedding on Wednesday - as the country reels from a cash crisis.
Up to 50,000 people are expected at the sprawling Bangalore Palace, a mock castle in southern India, to celebrate the wedding of Gali Janardhan Reddy's daughter, who was married in a Hindu ceremony earlier on Wednesday.
Local media criticised the extravagance at a time when many Indians are struggling to find the cash to eat after the government's shock move to pull high-value notes out of circulation in a bid to tackle tax evasion.[caption id="attachment_33408" align="aligncenter" width="800"] At the wedding venue, at least a dozen different sets of the kind you see in big-budget films are being constructed at the grounds. Rumour has it that Bollywood art directors Sujeet Sawant and Sriram Iyengar have been roped in to create the sets. The main set-piece is a recreation of a Vijayanagara-style palace. ET[/caption]
But one associate defended the lavish expenditure, saying Reddy wanted people to remember the wedding of his only daughter.
"It is unfortunate that a daughter’s wedding has been made an issue out of envy and rivalry," Manju Swamy told AFP ahead of the party. "It’s an important moment for her parents and they wanted to celebrate the event in a way that befits the family's status in society."
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced last week that 500 and 1,000 rupee ($7.50, $15) bills, representing 85% of the cash in circulation, would cease to be legal tender.
Indians can change a limited number of old notes for new ones at banks and post offices, but there have been huge queues since they reopened last Thursday after closing for a day following the announcement.[caption id="attachment_33410" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The work on the sets is underway around Bangalore Palace, and tries to outdo the palace itself. But there is a strict no-entry rule at the venue for now. Around 30 security men are always on the prowl, ready to throw out anyone who tries to take photos of these sets. ET[/caption]
Indians rely heavily on cash for their daily transactions and those living in rural areas or who do not have bank accounts have been particularly hard hit.
The 49-year-old Reddy, a former minister with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the southern state of Karnataka, spent three years in jail for his alleged involvement in a mining scam before he was released on bail last year.
Speaking to journalists in his home town last week, he refused to reveal how much he was spending on the celebrations, but said everything would be declared to the tax authorities.[caption id="attachment_33415" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The wedding cards came gold-plated, with an LED display of a one-minute, choreographed, Bollywood-style song-dance video involving Reddy and his family.[/caption]
Guests received their invitations on LCD devices and helium balloons featuring images of the Reddy family are reported to be floating above the palace.
Indian activist T Narasimha Murthy put the cost of the wedding at five billion rupees (about $75 million), a figure that tallied with local media reports.
"Reddy has hired about 3,000 bouncers and security guards to prevent media and activists like me from barging into the venue," said Murthy, adding he had petitioned local tax authorities to investigate.