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Mayavati eyes slice of seat-share pie

New Delhi, April 26: Mayavati is expected to initiate talks on seat-sharing between the Bahujan Samaj Party and the BJP in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha elections when she meets deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani tomorrow.

The chief minister, who might meet Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee also, will put forth a proposal on how many seats the BSP would expect and Advani will in turn discuss it with the state leaders, BJP sources said.

Asked why the process would start so early, the sources said: “The chief minister has conveyed to our leaders that she embarks on the exercise of identifying candidates and working out the caste arithmetic a year before an election — general or Assembly. Therefore, if the BJP was serious about the alliance, it must also plunge into it right away.”

But given the general health — or lack of it — of the alliance, the BJP did not sound too optimistic about it lasting till 2004. The sources said Advani would also apprise Mayavati about the feedback he received during interactions with his party workers in Kanpur, including the unflattering accounts.

Mayavati was reportedly told not to indulge in political “vendetta” after she slapped cases against Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and threatened to start a probe into the use of discretionary funds by former chief ministers, including Rajnath Singh of the BJP.

The chief minister’s retort, the BJP sources said, was that Rajnath ought not to have responded to the cases against Mulayam as they were political opponents. The move so rattled the BJP that even Central leaders were persuaded to seriously review the alliance in case Mulayam took to the streets and managed to get arrested.

“Our expectation was that Mulayam would lead a mass movement that could have attracted our cadre. Instead, like any other accused, he went to the court and secured a stay. There was no reaction after that. But Advani and Venkaiah Naidu (the BJP president) talked to her and cooled off the tension,” the sources said.

For the moment, the BJP has decided to treat the results of the last Lok Sabha election as the basis for sharing seats with the BSP.

If this is taken as the yardstick, the sources claimed that the BJP was entitled to get 53 or 54 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats. But there were also indications that it may scale down its expectation to 45 given the realisation that either it swims with the BSP or sinks altogether.

“What is the choice before us' In a fit of bravado we decided to fight two Assembly byelections separately and launched a strong anti-Mayavati campaign in the belief that this would be music to the ears of our upper caste voters. What was the outcome' Mayavati put up a Thakur candidate in one of the seats and he won comfortably with the support of his caste and that of the Dalits. In the other, the upper castes voted the Samajwadi Party. If we fight with the BSP, we are sure we will win at least 60 per cent of the seats,” admitted the sources.

As part of its social expansion agenda, the BJP plans to hold a rally of Muslims and backward castes at Rampur on May 28. Rampur has a Muslim electorate of 52 per cent — the country’s largest — and the presence of BJP general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in the rally could send out a “positive, pro-minority” signal, said sources. Naqvi was a Lok Sabha MP from this constituency.

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