The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayavati for Modi

Dec. 8: In response to an SOS from deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, Mayavati — known as secular — will campaign for the BJP in Gujarat, sharing the dais with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in a highly communalised election.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to address rallies in Surat and Ahmedabad on Monday and Tuesday.

Mayavati, who heads a coalition with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, said: “Advaniji and other senior BJP leaders have asked me to support it in Gujarat. I have accepted the offer.”

The last-minute Mayavati call-up is surprising as the message coming out of Gujarat was that chief minister Narendra Modi on his own would be able to power the BJP to victory. There were suggestions that Modi did not need even Vajpayee and Advani to campaign.

When Vajpayee spoke at Vadodara yesterday, Modi was not around to listen, a fact on which the Prime Minister commented in his speech.

He said he was there as Modi’s “advocate” but the chief minister was not present to hear his advocacy.

At an Id gathering in his residence today, Vajpayee dismissed reports of poor attendance at rallies of BJP leaders. “This is totally false. I have seen the crowds,” he said.

“We will win,” he replied to questions from reporters. Asked if the fight would be close, he flashed his enigmatic smile, which could mean both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Campaigning today, his deputy, Advani, said the BJP was in a “comfortable position”. At a meeting near Vadodara, he said: “Modi is committed to his duty. Whatever role he has been assigned by the party, he has done it with perfection and excellence.”

Taking Mayavati to Gujarat is not so surprising from a different perspective: other backward castes (OBCs), whose cause her Bahujan Samaj Party claims to champion, make up 53 per cent of the state’s population.

Her party is contesting 31 seats in Gujarat but she made it clear she was going there to campaign not for her candidates but for the BJP.

“I have little time,” she said. “I have asked them (her supporters) to come to the BJP meetings.”

“After what they have done for us in Uttar Pradesh, I considered it my moral responsibility to go to Gujarat to help them,” she said, referring to the BJP’s alliance with her.

Mayavati rejected suggestions that the election would be a contest between militant Hindutva and secularism.

“This is false propaganda unleashed by the Congress and the Samajwadi Party, who want to use Muslims as a vote bank,” she said.

“My Muslim vote bank is not going to be affected by the propaganda of my opponents, especially in Uttar Pradesh,” she added.

n See Pages 6 and 8

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