Thursday, May 19, 2011

[ZESTCaste] After Rahul Gandhi offensive, Mayawati seeks counter strategy

Posted: Thu, May 19 2011. 1:00 AM IST
Published on page 4

After Rahul Gandhi offensive, Mayawati seeks counter strategy
Liz Mathew &

The face-off between Congress party general secretary Rahul Gandhi and
Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister Mayawati took a fresh turn on
Wednesday after Gandhi stepped up his political attacks.

Seemingly on the defensive, Mayawati responded by convening a series
of meetings with top bureaucrats and key Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
leaders to evolve a counter-strategy.

Meanwhile, three people familiar with the developments said the chief
minister has also, for now, put off plans to advance the elections due
to the UP state assembly in 2012.

Gandhi, who was arrested by UP police last week after he joined a
section of farmers protesting against acquisition of their land for
the construction of the 165 km Yamuna Expressway linking New Delhi and
Agra, has now decided to broaden his political campaign.

"What is the state government doing? Bundelkhand is seeking help but
the state government is not doing anything. I went to the Prime
Minister and did whatever I can. But the money sent from the Centre is
not utilized here," PTI cited Gandhi as saying at a two-day convention
of the state unit of the Congress party in Varanasi. "I recently went
there (Bundelkhand) where the condition of roads was not good, farmers
were not getting their due in the mandi (market)."

Gandhi also demanded a judicial inquiry into the use of force by the
police in quelling a violent agitation by the farmers.

On Monday, Gandhi took a farmers' delegation to Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh and accused the state government of atrocities against
the agitators. Gandhi was quoted as saying that there were 74 mounds
with bodies inside. However, a day after the BSP denied this
allegation, the Congress on Wednesday said Gandhi had been misquoted.

"Rahul Gandhi had only said that at one place an ash heap of 70ft area
was there in which bones were found," Janardhan Dwivedi, party general
secretary, told reporters.

Meanwhile, the BSP chief is taking note of the political challenge
posed by Gandhi. So far the assumption was that the opposition against
Mayawati was divided and unable to galvanize itself around a cause.

A BSP leader, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not
authorized to talk to the media, said the chief minister was "more
concerned" that the present agitation, which has so far been confined
to Bhatta-Parsaul villages, could spread to other areas where similar
land acquisition issues are simmering. Former legislator and activist
V.M. Singh, in a letter to Mayawati, had warned that farmers in Kharua
in Pilibhit, Bareilly bypass, Joya and Joyee in Amroha and Madhya
Ganga Nahar in Bijnor were planning similar agitations.

The Congress is now keen to tap this discontent to bolster its
political base in the state.

According to Badri Narayan, an Uttar Pradesh-based political analyst,
there is a disconnect between Mayawati, who won by a landslide in the
2007 assembly polls, and the electorate. "She is completely under the
influence of bureaucrats and they guide her in governance matters," he
said. "She has lost that political touch with the people at the ground

Some BSP leaders concur.

"There is a visible disconnect between Mayawati and the party
leadership at all levels. I am not talking about district
coordinators; senior cabinet ministers are not getting a chance to
meet her," said a BSP legislator.

Similarly, another party leader pointed out that the chief minister
had discontinued routine interaction with party leaders at lower
levels. Mayawati would meet the zonal leaders, who would brief her
about the situation on the ground. "This discontinued after she became
chief minister but restarted after the low performance in the 2009 Lok
Sabha elections. However, since March this year, she has not met any
zonal coordinators," the same leader said.

PTI contributed to this story.


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