LUCKNOW, March 13 (AGENCIES): In a clear snub to BSP supremo Mayawati who slammed the door on the Congress for any electoral alliance, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday paid a visit to Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad in a hospital in Meerut. The unscheduled visit is being seen in political circles as an attempt to woo the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh and pit Azad against the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
“Why so much is being read into the meeting…Congress is a political party and why would it not explore all available options to evolve a cohesive combination to counter the BJP and the SP-BSP combine?” media coordinator Rajiv Bakshi commented on the meeting. In a blow to the prospects of an opposition grand alliance to take on the ruling BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, Mayawati had on Tuesday said her party would not have an election tie-up with the Congress in any state.
Priyanka Gandhi, however, said no political motive should be imputed to her meeting with Azad.
“He is fighting for a cause. I like his struggle and no politics should be seen in the meeting,” the Congress general secretary told media persons waiting anxiously outside the Meerut hospital. “It (the meeting) should be seen with the view point that he (Azad) is a youth and is struggling and raising his voice, telling the society to listen to his problem, but this government is so egoistic that it is gagging the voice of youth.
“It does not want to listen to the youth…they did not give employment to them and when the voice is being raised, it should be allowed,” she said. Priyanka Gandhi did not respond to questions as to whether Azad will be fielded by the Congress in the coming elections or urged to join the party.
Talking to reporters after Gandhi left the hospital, the Bhim Army chief maintained that he did not talk about politics with the Congress leader during their meeting.
“I got to know about it (Priyanka’s visit) from the media. She had come to enquire about my well being. I am not a political person…I am struggling for the ‘bahujan samaj’. She had not come to talk about politics nor did she ask me anything political,” he said. Azad was taken into custody by police on Tuesday for violating the model code of conduct, officials said.
He was detained while leading a procession that included cars and motorcycles, but was shifted to the hospital when he took ill. The code violation was allegedly over the number of vehicles in the political rally. “I will keep fighting for the bahujan samaj till my last breath…bahujan samaj is my strength…if she (Priyanka) wants to do politics, my best wishes are with her…,” the Bhim Army chief said.
When asked whether Priyanka Gandhi can stop the BJP juggernaut, Azad said non-BJP parties will be able to do so “unitedly”. Along with Priyanka Gandhi, Congress general secretary for western UP Jyotiraditya Scindia also met the Dalit leader. The meeting of the Congress general secretaries assumes significance ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections beginning April 11. The Bhim Army, which has gained traction among Dalit youths in western Uttar Pradesh, is considering to field candidates in the general elections.
Azad had recently said that his outfit would field strong candidates against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union minister Smriti Irani if the opposition failed to pose a challenge to the top leaders. He also demanded the anti-BJP block to “strengthen” its battle against the “saffron forces”. The 33-year-old leader had also said that he would contest against Modi from Varanasi if the SP-BSP alliance failed to field a strong candidate in the PM’s constituency.
The Bhim Army chief had also flagged off the ‘Hunkar rally’ in Meerut on Sunday, which is to culminate at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on March 15. The Congress, which has been cold-shouldered by the BSP, is seeking support from smaller parties across the state. The SP and the BSP have stitched together an alliance in Uttar Pradesh, keeping the Congress out, though the two
parties decided not to field any candidates in Rae Bareli and Amethi, the traditional strongholds of the grand old party. Of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the SP will contest 37 and the BSP 38, leaving three for the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and two for Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli) and Rahul Gandhi (Amethi).
Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has given Priyanka Gandhi the charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Scindia western Uttar Pradesh.