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Stung by verdict, Maya turns to Dalits again

May 19, 2009 18:54 IST

Stung by her party's debacle in the Lok Sabha election, Bahujan Samaj Party president and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati is all set to fall back on her erstwhile one-point agenda -- Dalit appeasement.

That was amply demonstrated at the nearly half-day long meeting with her party functionaries at the state BSP headquarters in Lucknow on Tuesday.

More than 1000 party-men -- including all ministers, members of the legislative assembly, newly elected members of Parliament and the defeated candidates from different parts of the country, along with district and zonal coordinators from all corners of UP -- were present at the meeting.

Mayawati's three-hour long monologue remained focussed on the need for the party to rethink its much-hyped "social engineering" formula.

Announcing the dissolution of all party-level committees, she made it clear at the closed-door meeting that "the re-constituted committees will give precedence to Dalits", thereby implying that she had made up her mind to pursue the party's old agenda that had taken it forward.

On Monday she had collected the resignations of more than 50 chairmen and vice-chairmen of different state undertakings. These plum jobs had gone as a reward to select party-men who had been given ministerial status and perquisites.

Even though she did not show her chagrin over Brahmins not supporting her in the Lok Sabha poll, she kept hinting at the need for the BSP to rely more on Dalits and backward classes. On the other hand, she was quite vocal about her disillusionment with Muslims who she pointedly accused of deserting her party.

That she was more worried about the loss of Dalit votes was amply demonstrated in her nearly 25-minute reference to her one-time blue-eyed bureaucrat P L Punia, who had just been elected from the reserved Barabanki Lok Sabha seat on a Congress ticket. Punia remained principal secretary to the chief minister during her earlier three chief ministerial stints, but was kept at a distance when she rode to power for the fourth time in May 2007.

Even though he had retired by then, Punia had become an eyesore for Mayawati for turning against her in the Rs 175 crore Taj Corrridor scam being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation following which Mayawati was charged in a disproportionate assets case.

Even her own party-men were heard whispering, "Why is she devoting so much attention to Punia? After all he is just one MP; by spending nearly half an hour talking about him we are only showing our panic."

Other than criticising Punia for "betraying" her, Mayawati even went to the extent of emphasising that the former IAS officer did not belong to her most favoured lot among Dalits. "I wonder if you are aware that Punia does not belong to the chamar (cobbler) community; he is a danuk from Haryana," she made it a point to tell the gathering.

While a separate meeting with the newly elected MPs had been called later in the day, yet another meeting has been called on Wednesday, when Mayawati proposes to make an assessment of the votes secured by the BSP in every assembly and Parliament constituency.

Wednesday's meeting is understood to be more crucial than the marathon meet on Tuesday. Party-men holding prominent positions in the council of ministers or in the party hierarchy are likely to be taken to task in case it is found that the party did not get a reasonable number of votes in their respective areas of influence. And insiders are worried that some heads could roll.

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow