Mayawati eyes power in Delhi, sounds poll bugle

February 24th, 2008 - 10:12 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party
(Roundup)

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Aiming to head the next government in New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati Sunday wooed Dalits and other sections of society, and exhorted thousands of her supporters gathered at a rally here to ready for the coming Lok Sabha elections. “We want to form the government in Delhi. And if we have enough MPs, we can form a government in the union,” said Mayawati, who does not hide her ambition to become prime minister.

Explaining why the BSP, originally seen as a party representing the Dalit cause, needed the support of ’sarvajan’, she said: “To establish an equal society and also to come to power, it is important that the BSP takes sarvajan samaj (all sections of society) with it.”

Even the rally was aptly named ‘Sarv Samaj Bhaichara’ (all-community brotherhood) rally.

Reflecting the rapid strides that her party has made in the last few years, the rally attracted a crowd that nearly filled up the 80,000-capacity Ramlila grounds.

Mayawati last held a rally in Delhi in 2002 in her earlier tenure as Uttar pradesh chief minister.

Not forgetting her core constituency, Mayawati told the crowd, “Though the BSP stands for ‘Sarvajan Hitay, Sarvjan Sukhay’ (welfare of all people, happiness for all), the first priority is the people from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes as they have been ignored by the Congress and BJP governments in the last 60 years.”

This statement must have put to rest any hopes the Congress party had of Mayawati siding with it after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during their meeting last week met most of her demands for development of Uttar Pradesh.

She did not differentiate between the BJP and the Congress and blasted them for the problems plaguing the country.

“These parties (BJP and the Congress) are run with capitalists’ funds. They work for the interests of these capitalists when they come to power,” she said.

Knowing well that the crowd wanted polemics more than a lecture on the economic or other policies of her government, the chief minister raised issues that touched an emotional cord.

Mayawati took up a range of issues, including the debate over migrants in New Delhi, sealing of shops in unauthorised areas in the capital, and the Gujjar community’s demand for the Scheduled Tribes status in Rajasthan.

“There are more people here who are outsiders than those who are from Delhi. Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress consider them a burden. I feel these outsiders are harassed, and both these parties and their alliance partners are responsible for this,” she said.

She was referring to the recent controversy following Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejinder Khanna’s reported remarks about making mandatory carrying of an identity card and residence proof - a move soon withdrawn as migrant workers here opposed it.

Referring to the Gujjars’s agitation last year, she said: “In Rajasthan, there was a problem in giving the Scheduled Tribes status to Gujjars. The BSP has been in favour of giving this status to Gujjars for a long time.” She added, “Gujjars should work with the BSP to help it come to power.”

She did not forget to reiterate her demand for job reservations in the private sector and also to the economically backward among upper castes.

“I have written to the prime minister about this but no action has been taken,” she said. “My government is committed to providing 10 percent reservation to the poor among upper castes. All those companies which get government contracts will have to provide this reservation.”

“Those companies which start a project with their own money but still provide reservation will get support from the government,” she said.

She added that other political parties talk of reservation to serve their interests whereas the BSP stood for taking all deserving sections along. “The BSP also supports reservation for Scheduled Castes who converted to Christianity and Islam, but after increasing the quota,” she said. “I have written about this to the prime minister but he has done nothing.”

Mayawati also spoke of various schemes and policy measures her government has taken to serve the poor, small farmers, daily wagers, economically weak students and other marginalised sections of society.

She criticised the sealing of unauthorised establishments in Delhi, saying it had led to harassment of a lot of business people and her party was opposed to it.

Delhi will elect a new assembly this year. The BSP made major gains in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls last year by winning 17 wards, and now plans to improve its performance in the coming assembly polls. The party’s candidates were runners-up in 30 wards.

The impressive turnout, almost entirely of locals including a fair number of women, would have the Congress in jitters. The party has been at the receiving end as BSP has encroached on its traditional support base among Dalits.

“I declare here today that the BSP should start its poll campaign for the Delhi elections,” Mayawati said, who became the Uttar Pradesh chief minister for the fourth time in May 2007.

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