by Alka Pande
Lucknow: The next general election could be closer than anticipated. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati dropped enough hint of it at her rally today. She reached out to her core vote bank besides targetting arch rival Samajwadi Party’s. She also launched a scathing attack on the Uttar Pradesh government on several issues. By all indications, it was a speech from someone bracing oneself for the elections. However, she kept the suspense hanging over withdrawing support to the UPA.
There were no words of solace for the UPA. Mayawati made it clear that she is not with the Centre on the issue of FDI in retail or hike in diesel prices or cap on subsidised LPG cylinders. This is in line with the stand of other parties and may not be sufficient reason for the BSP chief to consider withdrawing support from the central government. So what does she have in mind? Well, she did not open her cards today. A decision would be taken at the party’s national executive on Wednesday, she said.
It was Mayawati’s first big rally in six months after she lost power in the state. And she let herself go. In her hour-long speech, she attacked the UPA and SP governments with equal vehemence. The purpose was clear. She wanted to reconnect to her core voters - the Dalts - besides reaching out to voters in other castes. The rally was also meant to send a message to the SP, the ruling party, that the BSP has lost none of its traction with the electorate.
She grilled the state government for the poor law and order situation and said that she had predicted that the people of the state would regret bringing SP to power and now her words are being proved. Wooing her core vote bank, she charged both the UPA and SP governments with harbouring an anti-Dalit mentality. She said the state government had scrapped the public holiday on Kanshi Ram’s death anniversary, changed the names of several schemes after his name and refused to announce a national mourning on his death anniversary.
She also said that neither party wanted welfare of socially and economically deprived population. Mayawati ridiculed the stand of SP on the Reservation in Promotion Bill and criticised the UPA was unnecessarily delaying the Bill. She also raised the issue of tribals, who are indulging in protest after their lands are taken away.
She said neither the UPA nor the SP had been serious on the issues concerning the Muslims. It is hard to miss the import of her remark. The Muslim voters had swung massively towards the SP last time, leading the BSP to a humiliating defeat. With a number of communal clashes reported after the SP came to power, the BSP chief expects a significant section of the community to swing back to her side.
Mayawati, who was once an aspirant for the prime minister’s post, had suggestions for the UPA on economic reforms. “Instead of putting the burden on poor people it should be shared with big industrialists and capitalists. The economy can be stabilised by enforcing taxes on luxury items,” advised Mayawati. Mincing no words, she said her party could never support FDI or hike in diesel and cooking gas prices.
Meanwhile, the ruling party which kept an eye on the rally, said the event was to cover the corruption charges against BSP ministers. SP spokesperson Rajendra Chowdhary said the BSP was trying to deflect people’s attention from important issues. For the record, inquiry is going on against half a dozen ministers during Mayawati’s rule.At the meeting today she warned that “if action is taken (against the BSP’s ministers) as political vendetta, it would have serious repercussions”.
However, Mayawati’s move tomorrow will be eagerly anticipated by both the SP and the UPA. If she decides to withdraw support to the latter, the SP lands in a catch-22 situation. Despite all the brave talk of it being ready for the polls, the party not be actually prepared.