The Congress and its general secretary Rahul Gandhi again topped Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's agenda on Sunday. She alleged that the party had given a raw deal to Dalits and OBCs in the country in general, and Uttar Pradesh in particular. She charged Mr. Gandhi with “misleading the people” on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

Ms. Mayawati was addressing a Dalit/OBCs BSP workers' convention at the Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan here. It also marked the formal launch of the Bahujan Samaj Party's campaign for the next year Assembly polls.

Playing the caste card to the hilt, the Chief Minister claimed that the interests of Dalits and the OBCs were best served under her party's rule.

The Chief Minister of the State would either be a Dalit or an OBC “till their socio-economic and educational status fully improved.” “Members of the ‘sarv samaj' [Muslims and upper castes] would have to wait for 15 to 20 years, but the waiting period can be shortened if the BSP comes to power at the Centre,” she said.

During her 65-minute address, she only made a passing reference to the Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Congress ruled Uttar Pradesh and the Centre for 40 years. Yet in these four decades, the State was pushed backwards and Dalits and the OBCs were forced to migrate to other States in search of livelihood. “This segment of society was exploited in the Congress-ruled States,” she said.

The Chief Minister slammed Mr. Gandhi for his “beggar” remark. “It is an insult to the people of the State and is highly objectionable.”

(At a rally in Phulpur, Mr. Gandhi had said: “People of Uttar Pradesh are appreciated for their hard work, wherever they go in search of job....How long will you beg in Maharashtra [for work]? How long will you work as labourer in Punjab?”)

Mr. Gandhi's statement at his recent road show in the State that U.P. would be the number one State if the Congress is voted to power in the Assembly polls also came in for criticism by Ms. Mayawati. Dismissing it as “hawaai bayanbaazi” (hollow statement), she said: “If U.P. could not become the number one State in the four decades of Congress rule, how can it become one in 10 years.”

On the MGNREGS, she said the Congress was behaving as though the rural job scheme belonged to it, notwithstanding the fact that it was implemented under a Central government Act. Funds allotted to the States were derived from the tax revenue of the States, she noted.

‘Jobs all through year'

If the BSP formed a government at the Centre, changes would be brought in the MGNREGS wherein rural jobless people would be given employment all the 365 days in a year, she claimed.

Ms. Mayawati referred to her spinster status, saying she did not marry in the interests of the BSP.

Next on Mayawati's agenda is a Muslim, Kshatriya and Vaish BSP workers' convention at the same venue on December 18.