The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Amethi ‘cause’ dumps Priyanka for Mayavati

Lucknow, Dec. 31: The battle for Amethi has taken a curious turn with Ram Bhajan, a Dalit whose cause Priyanka Gandhi had taken up, suddenly switching sides.

“There is no question of my accepting the gift of a house from the Congress,” Bhajan told reporters.

BSP leader and Uttar Pradesh sports minister O.P. Singh paraded Bhajan before reporters in Lucknow today. Singh claimed that Bhajan as well as his family had been traditional supporters of the BSP and that he had been misled by the Congress.

Bhajan had burst into the limelight after a Thakur allegedly demolished his house in Punnupur village of Amethi and the issue was taken up by Priyanka during her visit to the family fief in November.

As a counter to Priyanka’s initiative, chief minister Mayavati had organised a sawdhan (beware) rally in Amethi on December 11, warning her Dalit followers against the Congress propaganda.

Mayavati had also announced that Amethi would be made a separate district and renamed after Dalit icon Chhatrapati Sahuji Maharaj.

Mayavati’s move triggered a storm of protest from the Congress as well as the local BJP. While Congressmen wanted the new district to be named after Rajiv Gandhi, BJP activists wanted it to be named after Rananjay Singh, Amethi’s erstwhile ruler and the father of former BJP MP, Sanjay Singh.

By then, local Congressmen had quietly purchased a plot in Punnupur and announced that they would rebuild Bhajan’s house and ask Priyanka or Sonia Gandhi to gift it to him.

Mayavati then rushed local BSP leader Singh to meet Bhajan. “Bhajan has now realised that the Congress was only trying to use him politically and has now decided to join the BSP,” the minister said.

“Now I have realised that it was a trap the Congress had laid for me,” Bhajan said. “The BSP led by Kanshi Ram and Mayavati is the only party which really stands for the Dalits.”

Congress spokesman Akhilesh Pratap Singh said the Mayavati government had used both intimidation and enticement to wean away Bhajan. “The government had earlier promised to provide a pucca house to Bhajan. But it woke up from its slumber only when the Congress started construction,” he added.

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