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Haathi to haath: Haji says bid to stop saffron; BSP,Cong battle over turf gain

A day after defecting to the Congress,while Haji Dilshad Ali,the erstwhile BSP candidate from Northeast Delhi,hogged the limelight for a brief while by sharing the stage with Rahul Gandhi during a rally here on Tuesday...

Written by Chinki Sinha | New Delhi |
May 6, 2009 1:20:28 am

A day after defecting to the Congress,while Haji Dilshad Ali,the erstwhile BSP candidate from Northeast Delhi,hogged the limelight for a brief while by sharing the stage with Rahul Gandhi during a rally here on Tuesday,BSP national general secretary Nasimuddin Siddiqui accused the Congress of “bribing” him away.

The Congress has denied that any money had changed hands.

Siddiqui,a close aide of BSP supremo Mayawati,said the party would still fight with the same grit as polls are “not about candidates but about party ideology”. The sudden announcement is also an indication of BSP’s increasing popularity in Delhi,he said.

“It just shows that the Congress is shaken,” he told the media on Tuesday morning. “They are using all means — first,Dilshad Ali was put behind bars and then they lured him with money. We appeal to voters to cast their votes in favour of BSP.”

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Since the deadline for withdrawal of nominations is over,Ali would still be considered a contesting candidate from the constituency,Northeast Delhi’s Returning Officer T C Nakh said.

Significantly,Ali was referred to as the dark horse in a constituency that has the largest number of Muslim voters and migrant workers,two key vote banks of BSP. His withdrawal has given another shot in the arm to Congress candidate J P Aggarwal — last month,just before filing his nomination,Lok Janshakti Party’s Shoaib Iqbal had withdrawn his candidature. Iqbal is known to have a strong following among Muslims in the area.

‘Unanimous decision’
While BSP leaders said Dilshad Ali was threatened and forced to join Congress,Ali said it was a unanimous decision of the Muslims in the area that he should join hands with the Congress to defeat BJP. “This was a decision taken by community elders,” he said. “The BJP should not come to power — BJP would have benefitted if the Muslim vote got divided between the Congress and me. Ultimately the Muslims would have suffered.

“I have nothing against the BSP (but) I had to listen to my community.

While miffed BSP workers alleged that Ali was paid in crores and offered the Babarpur Assembly seat,which he had lost in last year’s elections by 3,000 votes,the Congress dismissed the claims. Calling it a “development”,Congress candidate J P Aggarwal said it is not unusual during elections for candidates to join hands with others. “It was a sequence of events that led to this,” Aggarwal said.

With Ali joining him,Aggarwal said he is assured of a landslide victory in the communally sensitive constituency.

BJP’s Delhi state president O P Kohli meanwhile lashed out at the Congress. “We don’t believe in this buying and selling culture,” Kohli said. “These people defect under the garb of secularism.”

Signs visible on Sunday?
Addressing a rally at the Ramlila Grounds on Sunday,Mayawati made frequent reference to Dilshad Ali’s arrest and said the Congress government was using its muscle power to keep BSP from coming to power in Delhi. While six candidates appeared on the dais with her,Ali,sources said,was recuperating in a hospital.

A day after his defection that absence is being viewed in a different light.

All six candidates had reaffirmed their allegiance to BSP and Mayawati on Sunday. “I won’t sell out,” Chandni Chowk candidate Haji Mustaqeem roared into the microphone. “I won’t betray you.” Mustaqeem’s media coordinator Noorul Huda said offers were made to them,too. “He (Mustaqeem) was offered Rs 20 crore for withdrawing from the race,” Huda said. “But he himself is a rich man; he told them that he would offer them double the money if they chose to withdraw.”

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