| Mayavati at the media conference in New Delhi on Friday. A Telegraph picture
New Delhi, Sept. 19: A besieged Mayavati today hit back at her estranged ally, the BJP, by asking its leadership to take a few lessons in Indian culture from the “videshi mahila” Sonia Gandhi.
“Sonia Gandhi videshi hain, lekin Hindu sabhyata ke thekedar logon ko unse Indian sabhyata seekhni chahiye (Self-styled champions of Hindu religion and culture should learn Indian etiquette from Sonia),” she said.
Her grouse was the BJP brass’ failure to enquire about ailing Bahujan Samaj Party chief Kanshi Ram or call on him in hospital. Mayavati’s mentor was admitted in a serious condition after suffering a brain stroke.
Unlike the BJP leaders, Congress chief Sonia, on her return from election tour, rang up Mayavati on Wednesday to wish Ram speedy recovery. She wanted to visit him, but doctors ruled it out.
“Ever since the BSP chief has been admitted to a city hospital here, no senior BJP leader enquired about the health of Kanshi Ram. Those claiming to be the champions of Hindu religion and culture should learn a lesson from (Sonia) Gandhi... whom they dub a foreigner,” Mayavati said.
“Gandhi has fully learnt about Indian culture,” the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister added.
Political observers, however, read more into Mayavati’s praise for her rival Sonia — whom she had recently challenged in her family turf of Amethi — than mere approval of the Congress chief’s “humanitarian” gesture.
Her remarks are being viewed as an indication of thaw between the two parties ahead of crucial Assembly polls to five states, in at least three of which Dalits constitute a sizeable population.
The remarks have significantly come the day after the Supreme Court directed the CBI to file first information reports against Mayavati and others, including her former cabinet colleague Nasimuddin Siddiqui, in the Rs 175-crore Taj heritage corridor scandal.
Mayavati expressed surprise that the court did not mention the names of two Union ministers (apparently culture minister Jagmohan and environment minister T.R. Baalu) when two central officials were also involved in the corridor scandal.
The former chief minister cried conspiracy by both “manuwadi forces” and the media to malign a “Dalit ki beti” and weaken her Dalit party.
She said she suspected a BJP plot to tie her down in legal cases so that she did not get enough time to nurse Ram. If he died without care, the BJP would face the consequences, Mayavati warned.
The BSP vice-president denied charges of amassing property during her tenure as chief minister. The income-tax department, she said, had been informed about “each and every” property she owned and inherited.
The Centre and the CBI should have approached her directly instead of “planting stories” against her in the media, she said. Mayavati claimed she had gone public with information on “all her assets” at a party rally on August 25.
She demanded that the Prime Minister set up a committee of persons with impeccable character to inquire about properties owned by political leaders and their relatives and present a white paper on it.
She wondered why Atal Bihari Vajpayee had forgotten his promise, when he assumed power, that he would disclose all details of his ministers’ assets. “Why was it not done' I know why it was not done. It was not done as several of them owned properties in different parts of the country.”
“Somebody owns a hotel in Manali, somebody in Kashmir, somebody in Dehra Dun and somebody in the hilly tracts of South India,” Mayavati said. The people, she added, know whose money is involved in these projects.
She said she was being targeted by “manuwadi forces” as they found “unpalatable” a Dalit’s daughter becoming chief minister of the country’s most populous state three times. These forces, she warned, would face a Dalit backlash across the country.