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Uttar Pradesh elections 2017: To reach out, Mayawati looks beyond her written script

The objective, sources in her party said, is to counter the rhetoric of the PM and to showcase that she is also an influential public figure who strikes a chord with her audience.

Written by RAMENDRA SINGH | Lucknow | Updated: February 22, 2017 10:59:56 am
uttar pradesh elections, up elections 2017, up polls, mayawati, mayawati bsp, bsp, bsp campaign, BSP chief Mayawati, mayawati speech, elections updates, indian express news, india news Mayawati at a rally in Gonda on Tuesday. Source: Mohsin Kalbe

WHEN it comes to campaign speeches, BSP chief Mayawati isn’t exactly known for the impromptu flourish — she reads out her one-hour-long speech that has, by now, a predictable routine: attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his government, the BJP and RSS, state’s Samajwadi Party government and Congress. All in language, formal and staid.

But midway through this campaign season, Mayawati is trying to go off-script, marking a clear departure from her tradition.

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Off-the-cuff remarks and issues that have rarely made it to her speeches are being heard more and more. The objective, sources in her party said, is to counter the rhetoric of the Prime Minister and to showcase that she is also an influential public figure who strikes a chord with her audience.

So many were surprised when at her rally in Sultanpur on Monday, she said: “I can do better jumlebaazi than him (Modi), although I don’t have this hobby”. Saying that she is being forced to give a “tit-for-tat reply” to PM for his remark at a rally that BSP has become “Behenji Sampatti Party”, Mayawati described Narendra Damodardas Modi’s initials as “Negative Dalit Man”.

That wasn’t the only unusual intervention.

At her rally in Sultanpur, for example, to counter the PM’s allegation that she had amassed wealth, she said she had devoted her life to the BSP and had not got married. “My people consider me a treasure for themselves,” she said.

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At her rally in Banda on Saturday, after finishing her speech, she turned to the women in the audience. “I would ask my sisters and mothers that they should give food to the old and the ill on the day of polling but themselves observe a fast. They should eat only after having cast their votes. Similarly, they should not give food to their husbands and children until they have cast their votes,” she said to loud applause.

She has also added the touch of a conversationalist, leaning on the casual quip and sometimes the swipe.

“Result aane ke baad, sare opinion poll ki pol khul jayegi (All these opinion polls, showing BSP at third position, will be exposed when the results come in),” she said at a rally.

Then she said that the prime minister should not give out what she said was wrong information on the BSP government’s record on electrification — “he can ask me for correct information by just writing a letter to me,” she said.

Explaining deposits of about Rs 100 crore in BSP’s accounts after demonetisation, she said that this money was not “black money” and, being a lawyer herself, she was well aware of Income-Tax rules.

She has not released any election manifesto arguing that parties “make a fool of the electorate” by making tall promises they never meet.

However, as she campaign gathers pace, she has begun to repeat some promises in her speeches.

These include waiver of farm loans up to Rs 1 lakh; payment of all dues of farmers; a special drive to register FIRs for those who were turned away from the police stations during SP rule; allotment of government land to poor Dalits and setting up a commission to look into the issues of traders.

On doles, too, she has struck a slightly different note than her usual one, underlining a leg-up rather than a handout.

At her recent rallies, she has said that her government will provide financial help to students, not laptops or smart phones like the SP government has done or has promised. She has added that she will ensure “private and government jobs for the youth, not give out the unemployment allowance”.

At her rally in Banda, she promised to improve the quality of food in schools. “Our government will not provide cheap food in schools the way SP government does. The food in schools will include milk, cake, biscuits, gram, eggs and fruits,” she said.

Claiming that she will ensure the removal of all encroachments on land provided to Dalits, she said that those guilty won’t go unpunished. “Inko is baar sookha nahin chhoda jayega(they will not be left dry this time),” she said after a pause, to underscore that her government will be hard on criminals. The audience, largely Dalit, responded with loud applause.

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