Calling their gathbandhan an “alliance for change”, in their first joint rally since finalising the tie-up last year, BSP chief Mayawati and SP president Akhilesh Yadav Sunday described the BJP and the Congress as two sides of the same coin — and cautioned voters, “particularly Muslims”, against splitting their votes in the eight western UP seats that go to polls in the first phase on April 11.
However, the other alliance leader, RLD’s Ajit Singh, refrained from attacking the Congress, which has not fielded candidates against him and his son, Jayant Chowdhary.
“If the BJP has to be dealt a body blow, then the gathbandhan is the only choice. The Congress is not strong enough to take on the BJP and I want to tell all of you, particularly Muslims, that a vote for the Congress here will only help the BJP. Do not split your votes,” Mayawati said.
Muslims, along with Dalits and a section of Jats in western UP, form the backbone of the gathbandhan’s support in these Lok Sabha elections, which also explains the choice of Deoband as the venue for the first alliance rally.
What alliance is worried about
The gathbandhan’s first and only joint rally before the April 11 vote in western UP is aimed at mobilising its core base in the region — a coalition of Muslims, Dalits and Jats, which is crucial to defeating the BJP. But with Congress making it a triangular contest in six of the eight seats in the region that go to polls in the first phase, it remains to be seen whether the gathbandhan can arrest the split in anti-BJP votes.
“Thousands come to Deoband to pray at the ancient Devi temple and on the other side is the Darul Uloom. This city is as historic as this coming election will be,” Akhilesh said.
“Look at what happened in the Kairana, Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypolls. We won them all. This was possible because the vote did not split. The march to Delhi starts from here. I have instructed all SP workers to vote for RLD and BSP candidates across the state and so have Mayawati and Ajit Singh to their own parties,” he said.
While the three leaders criticised the BJP’s national security policy and asked why soldiers were “still dying” at the border, Akhilesh and Mayawati questioned the Congress’s intentions in contesting against the gathbandhan across UP.
Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mayawati said people should not fall for “natakbaazi” or “jumlebaazi”. Referring to the BJP’s “chowkidar” poll pitch, she said: “The Prime Minister’s chowkidari will not help him in UP no matter how much the chote chowkidar or bade chowkidars try…The BJP has not helped Dalits, adivasis, Muslims, backward classes and minorities. He was supposed to show us acche din but nothing was fulfilled.”
Addressing the rally after Mayawati, Akhilesh said: “Where are the promises the BJP made in 2014? They never want to talk about that. Everybody trusted them on acche din. But this time, chowkidar se chowki cheen lenge (we will snatch the guard’s guardroom),” he said.
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He also described the 2019 election as “historic”. “This government is drunk on power. They have forgotten their promises to the people. This will be a historic election. Modi says we are a mahamilavat (adulterated) alliance but this is a gathbandhan that will bring about parivartan (change). The gathbandhan will make sure there is a new Prime Minister,” he said.
According to Mayawati, the SP-BSP-RLD alliance was not built on lies and has not released a manifesto on purpose. “Do not fall for propaganda on media or opinion polls or even party manifestos. We have not released a manifesto because we speak less and do more,” she said.
Referring to the Congress’s Nyay scheme that promises the poor a minimum income guarantee, Mayawati said the gathbandhan will not dole out money. “Instead of Rs 6,000, we will give people jobs in the government and the private sector,” she said.
Speaking last, Ajit Singh said demonetisation and Opposition leaders facing raids from the CBI or the ED was all the government was interested in. “This is the reason B R Ambedkar’s Constitution gives all of you the chance to change the government every five years. This time, it is to save the nation. If the BJP stays in power, there will be no more elections,” he said.