Mumbai // A lavish wedding estimated to have cost 5 billion rupees (Dh270m) has sparked outcry in India at a time when the country is in the midst of a cash flow crisis.
The five-day celebration held in Bangalore was thrown by mining baron and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state minister Gali Janardhan Reddy for his daughter Brahmani, 21, and her husband, Rajeev Reddy, the son of Hyderabad-based business tycoon Vikram Deva Reddy.
It culminated on Wednesday with the main event – a wedding ceremony attended by 50,000 guests, including both Bollywood stars and politicians.
Gali Janardhan Reddy appeared to spare no expense for his daughter and son-in-law’s nuptials, which featured recreations of ancient Indian temples designed by Bollywood art directors, luxury bull-drawn carts to transport guests, and huge helium balloons bearing larger-than-life images of the family, according to local media reports.
Three thousand security guards were recruited for the celebration, and the bride’s wedding sari alone cost 170 million rupees (Dh9.2m). The gold-plated wedding invitations also cost a small fortune, and featured an LCD screen on which video played of the couple and Gali Janardhan Reddy lip-synching to an Indian song.
The wedding, which began on Saturday, came just days after Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced an immediate ban on the use of 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee notes – the highest denominations of currency in the country. The ban was called in an effort to get rid of so-called “black” money – cash that has been sourced from illegal activities or on which no tax has been paid – which exists in huge amounts in India.
Since last Tuesday’s announcement the economy has been in chaos, with Indians flocking to banks and standing in queues for hours to try to change cash. Cash withdrawals and exchanges of the banned notes have been heavily restricted, and many have been struggling to pay for basic goods and services because they have no legal tender.
Those without bank accounts – who tend to be the poor and low-income – have been particularly affected because although they can change notes at banks, they cannot withdraw cash from ATMs. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that many poor Indians live in rural areas where banks are not easily accessible.
Kavita Krishnan, the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association and editor of Liberation, a communist magazine, took to Twitter to condemn the Reddy wedding.
“Point about lavish #ReddyWedding isn’t just to say it’s a condemnable display. Point is, #demonetisation hit the poor, not the corrupt!” she wrote.
A number of Indians have postponed or even cancelled weddings following the demonetisation move as many companies providing wedding services will only accept payments in cash.
Mr Reddy spent three years in jail on charges related to illegal mining before being released last year on bail.
A Bangalore-based lawyer, T Narasimha Murthy, filed a complaint about the wedding, which is now being investigated by income tax officials, according to the Economic Times, an Indian newspaper.
Describing the wedding as an “ostentatious display of wealth and splurging money”, Mr Murthy questioned the source of Mr Reddy’s income and alleged that he is guilty of tax evasion.
“Reddy was released from prison in 2015, after serving a ... jail sentence in illegal mining cases,” said the complaint.
“Besides expensive cars and choppers, Reddy and his wife Lakshmi Aruna’s immovable assets, worth around 70 crore rupees (Dh700m) have been seized. Still he has managed to invest crores of rupees in his daughter’s wedding. How can this be possible?”