The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayavati magic sours Sonia spell
Doting daughter remembers Atal

New Delhi, Feb. 2: Mayavati today waved the magic wand that makes her the most unpredictable politician in India, transforming the turnaround mood in the Congress and the poll calculations of most key players.

Dubbing herself Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “second daughter” and seizing on the Prime Minister’s play on the word “maya”, the Bahujan Samaj Party chief today hinted at the possibility of again doing business with the BJP which she was bent on defeating a few months ago.

The loaded words came at a news conference Mayavati had called to dismiss reports that she had forged an alliance with Sonia Gandhi at a dinner meeting two days ago.

“My meeting with Sonia Gandhi was routine. But newspapers have come up with speculative stories. This is not right,” the BSP leader said.

Asked if there was any chance of her party softening its stand regarding the BJP, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said: “If the Prime Minister realises in front of the people of the country that (a) step-motherly attitude was adopted towards me, then I will consider.”

Mayavati’s sudden love for the Prime Minister comes in the wake of the government’s advice to the CBI to go slow in seeking her arrest in the Taj corridor case and Vajpayee’s comments, though satirical, in Ranchi yesterday.

“Maya is with Sonia Gandhi but we are spreading the web of prosperity,” Vajpayee had said, taking a swipe at the Congress chief for her accusation that his government was spreading a “maya jaal” (illusion).

For the record, Mayavati said she would decide on alliances only after the announcement of poll dates and her party will fight “communal forces”.

But she dropped enough hints to spoil the Congress’ mood and keep everyone guessing:

• Vajpayee has an adopted daughter. I am grateful to him for suddenly remembering his second daughter.

• This is a good thing. I thank him for it. This was because there was step-motherly treatment towards the second daughter since the last few months.

• The BJP is a “communal party”. We tied up with the BJP thrice “on issues” but never on ideology.

• I have come to know from reliable sources that another reason for advancing the polls was that the BJP had consulted astrologers who predicted that the party had a favourable period till April. (But) The country cannot progress on decisions based on superstitions.

• It is not necessary (for her party) to enter into alliances for strengthening secular forces.

The let-down in public could not have come at a worse time for the Congress, which was getting its act together with Sonia going out of her way to court prospective allies. A breakthrough with Mayavati would have helped Sonia better manage other alliances, which are now entering the bare-knuckle bargaining phase after the initial euphoria.

If the BSP does contest the elections on its own, it would suit the BJP as well as Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. The BJP realises that a Sonia-Mayavati alliance in Uttar Pradesh could see a revival of the Congress in the heartland and cloud its chances of retaining power at the Centre, while the Samajwadi is wary of a shift of Muslim votes away from it.

Mayavati also dismissed reports that the BSP had put a condition that the Congress should withdraw support to the Mulayam Singh government in Uttar Pradesh.

Asked whether she was “diluting” her party’s stand because of the Taj corridor case, she said there was no pressure from either the Congress or the BJP. “Whoever wants to do anything, can do. I have not done anything wrong. Ours is a national party and it will not act on anyone’s dictates. I will not see personal interests but interests of the bahujan samaj,” she added.

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