NATIONAL

BSP holds the key: Mayawati

MUMBAI, OCT. 11. The Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Mayawati, told reporters here today that her party would hold ``the balance of power'' in Maharashtra this time. At the same time it would notally with the Shiv Sena-BJP combine.

Ms. Mayawati said she was open to sharing power with other parties, including the Congress, if they agreed with the demands in the BSP election manifesto. ``I am trying for an absolute majority but in the event that we are going to be the `balance of power' then we will make sure that the manifesto is the most important issue that will have to be agreed upon.''

She said the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, promised the people of Vidarbha on Sunday that he would change the face of the region in five years. He had made these promises after seeing the Congress votes slipping away, and the increasing popularity of the BSP. The Congress has been in power at the Centre and in Maharashtra but it never took the demand for the development of the region or a separate state of Vidarbha seriously. It was the BSP that had included separate statehood for Vidarbha in its election manifesto. It is contesting 272 of the 288 seats this time.

The BSP would put the Congress on the mat in Maharashtra, she said. In Uttar Pradesh, in the last Lok Sabha election, the BSP had won 19 seats, as many as the BJP and the Congress put together, while it was second in 30 seats. It was Maharashtra's turn now, she said. ``We will reduce the two major parties to what they are in U.P. now,'' she added.

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