The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayavati gives only an inch

New Delhi, Feb. 15: They wanted to bring her around, but the BJP’s most “prized” ally did not oblige.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati today dug in her heels vis-à-vis the state leaders and yielded little after meetings with the Prime Minister and his deputy except for agreeing to meet state BJP chief Vinay Katiyar, central prabari (in-charge) Kalraj Mishra and senior minister Lalji Tandon every fortnight.

Mayavati also made it clear to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi that there was no question of revoking the anti-terror law against Independent legislator Raja Bhaiyya and his father — as demanded by some state BJP leaders. Nor was she trying to “marginalise” the BJP, as alleged by the Lucknow contingent, she said.

Mayavati clarified that the proposed fortnightly meetings with Katiyar and the others did not mean that a coordination mechanism — formal or informal — had come into being, as a section of the BJP tried to suggest as a face-saver.

“No coordination committee has been formed. These three senior BJP leaders from the state used to meet me earlier and they would continue to do so every fortnight,” she told reporters after the final sitting with Vajpayee.

That the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party will separately contest the Assembly seats of Haidergarh and Gauriganj in the byelection later this month was proof that the much-awaited meetings made no major breakthrough. “We only agreed to have a friendly fight without taking names,” sources said.

“The discussions were frank. At the end of it, we agreed that there should be more interactions at the state level,” BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu, who was present in all the meetings, told reporters later. The fortnightly meetings, he added, would be on policy matters and “people’s problems”.

Naidu said some specific problems were raised with Mayavati, who was told that the BJP’s rank and file was not getting “sufficient attention” and, therefore, there was need for the “message to go that this is a coalition”. She was also informed that her government should “take every section along” — the closest the BJP came to conveying its misgivings about Raja Bhaiyya’s arrest, which has angered the Rajputs.

The other issues brought to her notice concerned sugarcane growers — an “important issue” for the BJP, as Naidu put it — and the need to engage BJP legislators in development projects in their constituencies.

BSP sources maintained that Mayavati came armed with all the “relevant facts and figures” and managed to counter “every charge” made by the BJP leaders. Naidu himself admitted that she made a “detailed presentation” of the cases against Raja Bhaiyya and their history.

BJP sources said she even answered former chief minister Rajnath Singh’s contention that their base was “eroding” because of the alliance. “Your base had eroded most when Rajnath Singh was the chief minister,” Mayavati was quoted as saying. “My people are toiling in the fields and on the streets and that is why my base is growing. If you people work harder and come out of your rooms, then your base will also grow.”

Mayavati also showed Vajpayee, Advani, Joshi and Naidu a list of “favour-seekers” from the BJP and reportedly gave details on how she “obliged” most of them to refute a perennial complaint that BJP workers in the state were “ignored” by the government.

When Advani suggested that she should take the state BJP “into confidence”, Mayavati said the state leaders should stop articulating their problems through the press. “I have to come running to Delhi each time because they go to the media,” she was quoted as saying.

The interactions started this morning with a meeting of Uttar Pradesh leaders Mishra, Katiyar and Tandon with Advani, Joshi and Naidu. This was followed by another one with Mayavati at Advani’s residence in which the Lucknow team was kept out. The last was a lunch meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence which saw Mayavati reiterating her point of view but in a “much softer tone”, as sources put it.

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