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Maya opens Dalit flank

Lucknow, Jan. 15: Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati today lashed out at Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party for not recognising Dalits and other backward sections as a separate entity, in a birthday speech that analysts said was aimed at keeping her supporters from straying.

The BSP boss also ruled out any pre-poll alliance with the Congress, scotching rumours about a possible understanding ahead of the summer national elections.

It was, however, her sustained broadside at the AAP that stood out as Mayawati took the stage before an estimated gathering of half a million at Ramabai Udyan, 30km from Lucknow.

“If Dalits and backwards were equal with the rest of the ordinary people that AAP workers call common man, there would have been no need to open a new outfit like the BSP and the question of making provisions for reservations for some backward sections would not have arisen,” Mayawati, who turned 58 today, told the crowd that had braved the biting chill to attend the rally meant to kick-start her party’s campaign for 2014.

“In a state like Haryana, where Kejriwal comes from, Dalits are subjected to the worst forms of exploitationů. Elsewhere, even now, Dalits and backwards face discrimination.

“If a Dalit becomes a tea vendor, he is discriminated against and humiliated. If a Dalit becomes a collector, he is treated differently. Can they even loosely fit in the definition of aam aadmi in Kejriwal’s party?”

Ramesh Dikshit, political analyst and former professor of politics in Lucknow University, said Mayawati might have been trying to warn her Dalit and backward support base not to be “misguided by the new outfit’s rhetoric”.

Mayawati, it “appears, seeks to dismiss the AAP as a reactionary bubble”, Dikshit added.

Other observers suggested two reasons behind Mayawati’s outburst against the AAP. One, its rise in Delhi has coincided with the virtual decimation of the BSP legislative party.

The BSP, which had won two seats in the 2008 Assembly elections and finished third in 30 constituencies, drew a blank in 2013 as its vote share dropped from 14.05 per cent to 5.35 per cent.

Two, the AAP’s growing popularity in Uttar Pradesh, they said, had made her uneasy.

Mayawati accused Kejriwal of behaving like a representative of the trader class, and said the Delhi chief minister was out to “deprive the downtrodden and deprived castes of their rightful place in society”.