Nearly half a million supporters gathered to cheer Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati at the party's silver jubilee function in Lucknow on Monday, where she hit out at the Congress party for "playing gimmicks" to woo Dalit votes.
The huge rally convened at the Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan was clearly aimed as a show of her might in the country's most populous state, where she rode to power on her own two and a half years ago. The rally also marked the 76th birth anniversary of her political mentor and BSP founder Kanshi Ram.
During her 90-minute speech which she read out, other than holding out a strong defence for the billions she has spent out of the state exchequer on her dream projects - memorials and statues - she also lashed out at the Congress.
She told the audience, "till I have the last drop of blood running in my veins I will continue to serve the cause of the Bahujan movement and till I am alive, I will not allow a Dalit to bow down his head before anybody", to thunderous applause.
Criticising opposition parties, she said that "the Congress in particular - cannot tolerate the rise of a 'Dalit ki beti' at the helm of affairs of India's most populous state, with the potential to even rise to greater heights and rule the country one day."
She said, "in its desperate bid to grab power in the state, the Congress is busy playing all kinds of gimmicks to woo the Dalit voters, whom it had used for remaining in power for 38 years before it was voted out."
Hitting out at Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi for his forays into Dalit homes and for sharing meals with Dalit families in Uttar Pradesh villages, she warned the people to "guard against" him and his mother, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, saying they "will continue to play such tricks to impress you". She went on to add, "don't vote for any party other than the BSP which is your true and committed well-wisher."
She also blamed the Congress-led central government for neglecting the state and for denying Uttar Pradesh its financial requirements. "The manner in which our demands were kept in the cold storage in New Delhi reflects the hollow claims of the Congress party that it was interested in bringing about the development of UP," she pointed out.
And giving explanations about her own inaccessibility, she said: "You all must be wondering why I do not visit villages or undertake surprise inspections in different parts of the state as I used to in my earlier stints; but let me tell you that since Kanshi Ram-ji was alive in those days, I was not required to attend to political work so I had all the time to devote to governance issues."
She said she is "truly hard-pressed for time" as she has to attend to both political as well as administrative work, "therefore instead of travelling myself, I have detailed some of my senior ministers and officials to undertake those tours".