| Congress workers welcome Pal on his arrival at Charbagh. (PTI)
Lucknow, June 5: Unidentified gunmen today fired on a procession organised by Uttar Pradesh Congress workers to welcome their new state chief Jagdambika Pal. Two party functionaries were injured.
State police officials tried to play down the incident as “an accident caused by someone shooting in the air”, but Pal saw a more sinister design.
“It shows how a desperate Mayavati is using criminals to save her government, which has been reduced to a minority after the withdrawal of support by 14 Rashtriya Lok Dal MLAs,” Pal said.
The state Congress committee chief’s public relations officer, Dinesh Singh, was hit in the arm. “Since I was sitting close to Pal, it appears to be an attempt on his life,” Singh said.
The incident occurred near Husainganj crossing when Congress workers were returning from Charbagh railway station, led by Pal. They were heading towards the party headquarters at Mall avenue.
The sound of the shots and news that two functionaries had been hit made Congress workers panic, but Pal got out of his vehicle and brought the situation under control.
Later, addressing workers at the party office, Pal said chief minister Mayavati was surviving only because the Centre, the Governor and the Speaker were bent on protecting her government through “unconstitutional means”.
The Congress chief urged President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam “to save the state from plunging into political anarchy”. He alleged that the state machinery was being used to coerce Independent MLAs into issuing statements in favour of Mayavati.
Pal said the Congress was co-ordinating with other Opposition parties to see if an alternative government could be formed if Mayavati lost power.
Referring to the Madhumita Shukla case in which a state minister is thought to have ordered the Hindi poet dead, Pal said: “The people of the country are not blind. The BJP will have to pay a heavy price once facts are brought to light after the present government falls.”
On arriving at the office, Pal held discussions with senior state Congress leaders. He then held separate meetings with Samajwadi Party chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, and the Rashtriya Kranti Party president, Kalyan Singh.
"We are trying to work out a united front against the BJP-BSP combine which will not only provide an alternative government but can also fight the coming elections together,” Pal said.
He said seven rebel BJP MLAs had still not withdrawn their petition in court till now and that the number of dissidents was likely to rise due to their growing disenchantment with the high command for shielding Mayavati at any cost.
The Congress chief challenged the authenticity of the joint statement of nine Independent MLAs, circulated by the chief minister’s secretariat, expressing support for Mayavati. Pal said the signatures of seven MLAs had been forged. He demanded an inquiry into how the signatures of some absconding legislators had been obtained.
“Three of the nine Independents have assured us support if we form an alternative government with the help of the Samajwadi and other parties,” he added.