SITAPUR, February 2, 2012
All roads lead to Sitapur in Mayawati's show of strength
At Sitapur, she blames opponents — Congress, in particular — for U.P.'s ills
It was a massive show of strength by Uttar Pradesh's ruling Bahujan
Samaj Party (BSP) at Sitapur, 85 km from Lucknow, as Chief Minister
Mayawati launched her election campaign on Wednesday — the first of 62
rallies she will address over 29 days.
If Ms. Mayawati roundly blamed all her political opponents, she gave
top billing to the Congress: she blamed the Centre for virtually
everything that she could not deliver to people in her five-year rule,
while describing its efforts to give reservation to the minorities
within the OBC quota as a conspiracy to divide society.
As we drove into Sitapur, a seemingly unending line of people — the
men largely in trousers and shirts, Ambedkarites all, the women in
their colourful best made their way to the rally. There was no
jostling, no blocking of traffic, only the occasional slogan. After
days of being at the receiving end of the Opposition onslaught against
the BSP and its leader, its silent supporters suddenly appeared as if
from nowhere, filling every inch of the ground, climbing on trees and
On stage, local leaders held forth, describing Ms. Mayawati as the
"Iron Lady," spewing venom against the opposition: one speaker listed
the many rags-to-riches stories of the Yadavs who had become
construction magnates under the Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh's
rule. Occasionally, the speakers shouted out the first line of a party
slogan — and on cue, the crowd roared back the second line. The
favourite? "Vipaksh ki chaati par, batan dabao haathi par" (Stand on
the opposition's chests; press the button next to the elephant.)
Then the whir of the helicopter was heard. The party faithful were on
their feet and as Ms. Mayawati strode on to the stage, slogans rent
the air again. She waved to the crowd, and then sat down on a wide
sofa, her hands outstretched on either side. Then the first — and only
speaker — permitted to speak before her was announced, a Muslim, who
addressed her as Vazir-e-Alam, before breaking into a song about the
love and care his community had received during her rule, ending with:
"Oh Muslims, demand your rights/ How long will you be pushed
around/Come into the comforting shade of the BSP." It's a carefully
calculated gambit to lure away a substantial part of the 18 per cent
Muslim vote, which has been gravitating to her main rival — the SP.
Then Ms. Mayawati rose to speak, reading from a written text for the
next 50 minutes. If the Congress was the chief object of her ire, she
didn't spare the other rivals, attacking the SP for lawlessness during
Mr. Singh's rule and the BJP for fomenting communal tension and
corruption, citing the mining scams in Karnataka during B.S.
Yeddyurappa's reign there. She only faltered a bit while accusing the
Centre of manipulating the Central Bureau of Investigation to tarnish
the BSP's image on poll-eve in the National Rural Health Mission scam.
"The way the investigation is being done reflects the Congress'
anti-Dalit mindset. The Congress can't tolerate the fact that the
daughter of a Dalit is Chief Minister."
Her rally, she said, had drawn five times as many people as those who
attended Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's the day before in
the same district. "Don't get carried away by the manifestos of the
Opposition parties. Beware of the Congress in particular — its stakes
are high, but has virtually no support base."
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