BSP looks forward to U.P., Punjab polls

NEW DELHI, APRIL 29. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has decided to keep a low profile in the coming Assembly elections in five States preferring to test its strength in the Uttar Pradesh and Punjab elections to be held within a year.

Although the BSP has fielded some candidates in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the leadership has decided to stay away from campaigning barring a brief spell in West Bengal.

For a party, which at one time wanted to expand its base outside the Hindi belt, especially in Tamil Nadu, the BSP has now left these polls to local leaders. ``Neither I nor our president, Mr. Kanshi Ram, will campaign in Tamil Nadu,'' the BSP vice- president, Ms. Mayawati, told The Hindu.

The BSP would concentrate its energies in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab with Ms. Mayawati taking charge of the former and Mr. Kanshi Ram the latter. In both States, the party had a formidable vote share and with proper planning could well capture power, she said.

When Ms. Mayawati was the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, twice sharing power with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1997 before coming out of the alliance, Mr. Kanshi Ram represented Hoshiarpur in the Lok Sabha when the BSP had a pact with the Shiromani Akali Dal.

Uttar Pradesh is Ms. Mayawati's obsession and she sees the BSP as the guardian of the Dalit interests. She accused the BJP of propping up the Communications Minister, Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan in the State with the sole motive of eroding the BSP base. The plan of the Lok Janshakti, formed by Mr. Paswan, to eat into the BSP's base in the State would come a cropper, she said.

Citing the removal of Mr. Bangaru Laxman, she said the BJP had not given Dalits an honourable place in the party. Although it projected Mr. Laxman as the Dalit face of the party, the BJP removed him at the first opportunity. Though it agreed to reinduct the former Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes, into the Cabinet if the inquiry established his innocence, it did not offer the same concession to Mr. Laxman. However, Ms. Mayawati said Mr. Laxman could be admitted into the BSP, only if he was exonerated.

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