The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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UP erupts in arrest backlash

Lucknow, April 16: Uttar Pradesh appeared heading towards a civil strife as the Mayavati government registered more criminal cases against Mulayam Singh Yadav and his supporters amid mounting protests from the Samajwadi Party.

Two days after Mayavati slapped 179 cases on Mulayam and others during a rally, the number of charges has crossed the 200 mark. The Samajwadi chief has been accused in 151 of these cases.

With the state police going on an arresting spree, Samajwadi activists intensified their protest today. Fearing Mulayam’s arrest was imminent, they blocked roads and disrupted traffic, courting arrest by thousands.

Taken aback by the escalating violence, Mayavati today decided to extend an olive branch to her ally, the BJP, whose state leaders she had been ignoring till now. The chief minister invited BJP leaders for a joint meeting during the weekend to project a united front against Mulayam.

Following arrests in Bundelkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi workers today staged violent demonstrations in Gorakhpur, Deoria and Mau and blocked road traffic in Agra and Banda.

State Samajwadi leaders said more than 2,000 party workers have been arrested during the last two days of protest. “The party’s state headquarters in Lucknow is under police siege,” party general secretary Shiv Pal Singh Yadav said.

Shouting anti-Mayavati slogans, Samajwadi activists today stopped the Avadh-Assam Express and the Lucknow-Varanasi passenger train in Lucknow for nearly an hour.

“Mayavati has created a police raj in Uttar Pradesh and Samajwadi MLAs coming out of the party office were being detained and intimidated by the cops,” party leader Bhagwati Singh alleged. State director-general of police Hakam Singh denied the charges, saying: “The police are only investigating criminal cases and taking action according to the law.”

BJP sources confirmed that Mayavati had proposed a joint meeting of her Bahujan Samaj Party and the BJP. Apart from urban development minister Lalji Tandon, BSP’s leader in charge of Uttar Pradesh Kalraj Mishra and state BJP president Vinay Katiyar will attend the meeting, a state BJP functionary said.

Although BJP leaders insisted that the meeting would be held to follow up on the suggestions that emerged after Mayavati’s meeting with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani last month, insiders said the fallout of the Samajwadi-BSP war would top the agenda.

“Ever since Mayavati launched her offensive against Mulayam at Monday’s rally, the BJP finds itself caught in the crossfire between the two,” a state BJP functionary confessed.

Katiyar, too, seemed to be stunned by the pace of the new developments and has publicly decried “the politics of personal vendetta” launched by Mayavati.

A section in the BJP feels that Mayavati’s campaign might just end up giving Mulayam an edge in the state’s turbulent politics. “At a time when the Samajwadi was groping in the dark without an issue, she has given Mulayam a cause which might generate a sympathy wave for him,” a senior BJP leader said.

Besides the Samajwadi issue, the other important point likely to be discussed during Mayavati’s meeting with the BJP trio this weekend would be the selection of coalition candidates for the 10 UP Legislative Council seats which fall vacant on May 12.

All the 10 seats are in the nominated category and were filled by the Governor in 1997 when Mayavati was chief minister in her party’s rotational coalition with the BJP.

The BJP presently holds six and the BSP four. BJP leaders fear that Mayavati may demand more seats for the party as the complexion of the Assembly has changed.

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