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BJP is a distant 2nd, SP out of reckoning for UP polls: Mayawati

BSP chief Mayawati is confident of returning as UP chief minister and is viewing next year's assembly election as a no-contest. "BSP is way ahead of everybody else. BJP is a distant second, Samajwadi Party is already out of the reckoning and Congress was never in the picture at all," Mayawati told TOI in a rare interview to the media on Sunday.

Asked to spell out the reason for her confidence, she indicated that it was derived from the surge in Muslim support for BSP in the aftermath of the factional fight in SP. "Muslims are determined not to repeat the mistake they made in 2014 (when they voted for SP in Lok Sabha elections). There is no confusion this time. They have resolved to vote for BSP," she said.

Dalits and Muslims account for more than a third of UP's electorate. However, she rejected the suggestion that her focus on a political coalition between Dalits and Muslims was at the cost of other communities. "Wait for the list of BSP candidates. You will realise that we have not discriminated against anybody. We have powerful leaders from all communities," she said.

Insisting that there is adequate representation for all castes and communities in her party, BSP supremo Mayawati told TOI, "Satish Mishra is BSP general secretary and the party's leader in Rajya Sabha. Ramveer Upadhyaya from Agra is a powerful leader. We have important representatives from Thakurs, Jaivir Singh from Aligarh and Umashankar Singh from Ballia. Other backward castes have consistently supported us. We believe in sarvajan hitay, sarvajan sukhay. We favour affirmative action for poor among the upper castes," she said.

Even as she said her fight was with BJP, the former CM refused to consider the saffron outfit as a viable challenge. "They are far behind us and struggling," she said. To a question about BJP's Dalit outreach, she dismissed BJP chief Amit Shah's ambitious initiative as a non-starter. "It has been reduced to a farce. They could not find Dalits to attend their Dhamma Chetna Yatra and were forced to get RSS activists tonsured and pose as Buddhist Dalits to cover the failure. The death of Dalit scholar Rohit Vemula and the atrocities committed on Dalits in Una, Gujarat has brought out the BJP's hostility towards them," she said.

However, Mayawati reserved her venom for SP, especially CM Akhilesh Yadav. Asked about the claim that Akhilesh has tried to break free of SP's alleged traditional reliance on criminals, she dismissed it as a "blatant lie". "SP remains a criminal enterprise under Akhilesh, as it was under his father. Jaisa baap, waisa beta. Mulayam Singh Yadav always rallied criminals around him and offered them protection to establish his influence. Akhilesh has collected a bunch of new criminals around him. That is the only difference," she said.

The BSP chief argued that the vicious fight among rival SP factions confirmed her claim that the party had not changed under Akhilesh. "Just consider the case of SP MLC Ashu Malik, a Muslim from Ghaziabad. He was grabbed from the party convention at the behest of the CM and in the presence of hundreds. He was taken to the CM's residence where he was brutally assaulted by the CM's supporters. Yet, nothing happened. This exposes Akhilesh's reform claims as well as his true attitude towards members of the minority community," she said.

Replying to a question about Akhilesh's claims on development initiatives, she said the CM, just like PM Modi, was adept at making tall claims. "He has been repackaging my schemes and passing them off as his own," she said.

On Congress, Mayawati said, "They are nowhere. It is a pity that they have been parading Sheila Dikshit as a Brahmin from UP. She is actually a Punjabi who married a UP Brahmin. As CM of Delhi, she blamed crimes and other problems in the capital on migrants from UP."

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