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Will join Opposition front only if given respectable seat share, says Mayawati

On Saturday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh had released Chandrashekhar aka Ravan from jail, two months ahead of his scheduled release.

india Updated: Sep 16, 2018 23:36 IST
Mayawati,Bhim Army,Chandrashekhar
Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati addresses a press conference, in Lucknow on Sunday.(PTI Photo)

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati on Sunday said she would join the proposed anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) front only if she gets a “respectable” number of seats while dismissing Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar as a stooge of the ruling party. “If I do not get a respectable share of seats, then I could even contest alone,” she said.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) got the better of the BJP in Lok Sabha and assembly by-polls in March and May thanks to the BSP’s support. The Opposition wants to replicate the successes in the next year’s national polls. Mayawati is the key to any joint Opposition challenge to the BJP. She has been repeatedly talking of “respectable share” without actually clarifying what she exactly means by that.

Mayawati claimed Chandrashekhar, who had been arrested last year following caste violence in Saharanpur, was out to split Dalit votes at the BJP’s behest.

Her claim came two days after Chandrashekhar referred to Mayawati as his “bua (aunt)” following his release from a jail. Chandrashekhar, who belongs to Jatav sub-caste of Dalits like Mayawati, had vowed to uproot the BJP at the centre.

Mayawati distanced herself from Chandrashekhar. “For political reasons, some people are trying to relate to me. I want to clear that I have no such bua-bhatija (aunt-nephew) or bhai-behan (brother-sister) relationship,’’ she said. “If he is indeed a well-wisher, he would have come to me to fight the BJP together rather than floating his own outfit,” she said.

Chandrashekhar was not available for comments.

Mayawati said her larger relationship is with Dalits and tribals, who have stood by her through thick and thin. “Over the years, various outfits have been floated for narrow personal interests... their leaders say something to people in public and do exactly the opposite.”

The Congress underlined the need for the opposition to stay united. “A scared BJP is trying to float various kinds of rumors, but the Congress would ensure that the opposition stays united. All are united,” said Uttar Pradesh Congress secretary Devendra Pratap Singh.

The SP said the party always gives respect to all. “Our larger objective is to defeat the BJP. For this, we would enter into an alliance. We would ensure that all the allies get respectable share of seats,” said SP spokesman Abdul Hafiz Gandhi.

Political observers say Mayawati was making her association with the anti-BJP front conditional for a better bargain. “Mayawati is a shrewd politician... she is making her importance clear for the opposition parties. Of all the parties in the opposition, it is she who is actually being wooed equally by all... The ruling party at the Centre appears to be wooing her too. Bhim Army might be a cause of concern for her but she is clearly a bigger political player with far greater clout,” said Athar Siddiqui of the Centre of Objective Research and Development.

Earlier, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav had said that he was willing to make “any sacrifice” to ensure that the alliance become a reality.

Mayawati’s precondition for the alliance has enthused the BJP strategists, who have been keeping a close watch on her announcements. “It is evident that all is not well in the opposition camp. Chandrashekhar’s release (ahead of the due date) has confused Mayawati. Her repeated assertion that she could contest alone is a pressure tactic, which is bound to create tensions in the opposition ranks. We are not complaining,” said BJP’s Tarun Kant Tripathi.

Mayawati criticised the BJP government at the Centre for issuing an advisory suggesting the media to use the term scheduled caste for Dalits. “The BJP government’s logic is that this should be done as the word scheduled caste is mentioned in the constitution. To that, I wish to ask that even Hindustan is not mentioned in the Constitution. Why do BJP leaders use the word? They should use Bharat instead.”

First Published: Sep 16, 2018 17:51 IST