| Mayavati shows the list of candidates in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi, March 17: Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayavati today released the names of candidates for 75 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, paving the way for a four-cornered contest, but kept options open for post-poll alliances.
Belying expectations that she would leave two or three seats for Sonia Gandhi and her family even if there is no alliance with the Congress, Mayavati fielded candidates from Amethi and Rae Bareli, the family’s fief, while not announcing any candidate from Lucknow yet.
Candidates for Lucknow, the constituency of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and four others, including Akbarpur (from where Mayavati won in 1999), were left unannounced.
Mayavati — who released her party’s manifesto, which demanded 85 per cent reservation for the bahujan samaj in the private sector, the judiciary, the Rajya Sabha and the legislative councils — said the BSP will contest 325 of the 544 seats across the country.
“If I.K. Gujral, who has no base, can be Prime Minister, if Chandra Shekhar, who has no mass base, can be PM, if (H.D.) Deve Gowda, who has some base only in Karnataka, can become PM, why not a Dalit ki beti'” she asked, while releasing names of 205 candidates.
Although the BSP does not have a single MP outside Uttar Pradesh, the party is contesting 21 seats in Madhya Pradesh, nine in Haryana, six in Punjab, 14 in Rajasthan, all five in Uttaranchal, 38 in Bengal and 37 in Bihar.
In Bihar, Mayavati has not even spared Laloo Prasad Yadav. Abhayraj Kishore Yadav is her candidate in Chhapra from where the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief is expected to contest.
The BSP chief described as baseless reports that she suggested (in one of her meetings with Sonia) that the Opposition project her as Prime Minister and held the Congress responsible for such “false propaganda”.
She also disagreed that a four-corner contest would benefit the BJP. “In UP, a four-corner contest will benefit the BSP,” she said.
Mayavati dismissed allegations that she spurned the Congress’ overtures under pressure from the BJP.
She said she had waited for the Congress to withdraw support to the Mulayam Singh Yadav government till March 12, but added that she did not make it a condition for an alliance with the Congress.
Asked if the BSP would support a common candidate against Vajpayee, she said no party had approached her in this regard.
About the possibility of an alliance with the Congress, Mayavati declared it was a closed chapter.
Even if the Congress withdrew support to the Uttar Pradesh government now, it was too late, she said, adding: “You can’t sail in two boats at the same time and this was what the Congress leadership tried to do.
“The BSP would not align with any national or state-level party and would contest the elections on its own.”