Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati's birthday will not see the customary glitter and glamour this year. Instead, when Mayawati turns 58 on Wednesday, the BSP will kick-start its campaign for the 2014 general elections.
The August-September Muzaffarnagar communal violence and the subsequent sufferings of the affected people, which continue till date, prompted Mayawati to decide against a glitzy event, a BSP leader said.
The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav have faced a volley of criticism over the recently concluded Saifai Mahotsav, held at a time when children in riot relief camps were dying of the cold.
BSP leaders and workers will visit hospitals, and distribute fruits and medicines among poor patients on Mayawati's birthday in a bid to project the party's humane face.
Desperate to bounce back after losing power to the SP in the 2012 assembly polls, Mayawati has also planned to start the BSP's campaign with the Savdhan rally at Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan on Wednesday.
Thousands of workers from across the country have already arrived at the venue. They are staying in temporary shelters, braving UP's biting cold.
BSP national general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra said it was an important rally, in which Mayawati would motivate workers to perform well in the 2014 polls. When asked about the Aam Aadmi Party's impact on UP, Mishra said the rookie party would not be able to dent the BSP's prospects.
Mayawati has already clarified the BSP will not form any pre-poll alliance and contest all the 80 seats in UP - the highest for a state in India.
Besides UP, the BSP has decided to field candidates in Delhi, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Haryana.
This will be the party's first big rally in the run-up to the general elections. While the SP, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have held meetings in the politically vibrant state, the BSP was busy strengthening its base in rural areas.
Another BSP meeting will start a day after the rally and continue till January 18. Leaders of the BSP's state units and the central committee will take part in the three-day event.