Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati's first-ever rally in Ranchi drew in a small crowd of less than a thousand on Saturday afternoon. The former Chief Minister of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, among Third Front’s PM aspirants, blamed a bandh and alleged obstructions by rival parties for the low attendance, though there was no such bandh announced for Sunday in Jharkhand.

“It was my cadre’s request that I hold a rally here. Many colleagues are stuck in different part of the state because of a bandh called by our rivals tomorrow. But I request you all gathered here to carry my message to them,” the leader dressed in her trademark off-white salwar kameez began addressing the crowd from a dark-blue stage.

“Jharkhand has one of the highest concentrations of SC, ST, OBC, and economically-weak upper castes. You struggled for decades for a state separate from Bihar but even after it was formed, neither the state governments here nor your MPs resolved your poverty, unemployment. When the subject of a special package for underdeveloped states came up in the parliament, I said Jharkhand deserves such a package, UPA ignored my suggestion,” she said.

Ms. Mayawati referred to BSP forming a government four times in UP and remarked that her government had worked to reduce landlessness and communal tensions there. “If you too wish to live with maan-sammaan (honour, respect), come under BSP’s blue flag,” she said accompanied by loud cheering.

In 2009, the BSP had fielded candidates from all 14 constituencies in Jharkhand getting between 1 to 6 per cent votes in 13 constituencies, except Dhanbad where its candidate Samresh Singh won 16 per cent of the votes polled, the third highest after BJP and INC. This time too BSP will contest all 14 seats. The most prominent among its candidates is Durga Oraon, an-anti corruption activist known for filing a PIL in 2008 against former Chief Minister Madhu Koda in 2008.

While several of Mayawati’s supporters from UP were present among the crowd at Vidhan Sabha ground, hundreds of women farmers from Jharkhand's Garhwa, Palamu, Chatra districts eagerly waited to listen to Mayawati’s spech. “We came here with Janki, a BSP worker. Mayawati is a leader in Lucknow, she is a harijan too,” said Diya Devi Bhuian, a SC agricultural worker from Kamta village in Chatra, 180 km away. Lakhmaniya Devi Das, an old farmer in her 50s from Garhwa, on Jharkhand's border with UP, made several attempts to make those crowding up in front of her move for a better look at the leader. “Why did we come all the way if you will not let us see Mayawati?” she snapped at those blocking her view.