Assange insane: Indian politician
A top Indian politician has lashed out at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying he is either insane or being used as a tool of her opponents for releasing US Embassy cables that describe her as a corrupt megalomaniac.
An October 2008 cable called Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, a powerful leader of the nation's bottom caste untouchables, a "virtual paranoid dictator" who once sent a private jet to Mumbai to pick up a new pair of sandals.
The cable said Mayawati had institutionalised corruption throughout India's most populous state, charged potential candidates £155,143 to run for Parliament on her party's ticket and was obsessed with becoming prime minister. Similar allegations have been often been made by her political opponents too, but she has consistently denied them.
Mayawati told reporters the Wikileaks accusations were "malicious, incorrect and obscene".
"From this it appears that the owner of WikiLeaks has either gone mad or else this person has played into the hands of parties who oppose us and deliberately want to tarnish the image of our party and government," said Mayawati, who uses only one name.
She called for Mr Assange to be sent to a mental asylum either in his home country of Australia or in Uttar Pradesh, and called news reports about the cables as "dirty politics" and an attempt to besmirch India's untouchables, or dalits.
Mr Assange responded quickly and equally sharply.
In a statement broadcast by at least two Indian news channels, he said Mayawati should "admit her error and apologise. Should she fail to do so, she is welcome to send her private jet to England to collect me, where I have been detained against my will, under house arrest, for the last 272 days.
"I would be happy to accept asylum, political asylum, in India - a nation I love. In return, I will bring Mayawati a range of the finest British footwear," NDTV reported him as saying.
Mayawati has been criticised for excessive displays of wealth and power in a state rife with poverty. Last year, she was photographed inside a gargantuan garland made of 1,000 rupee notes estimated to total more than £625,000. She has also spent millions on statues of herself and other dalit heroes, while the roads and health infrastructure of the state lie in tatters.