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We can challenge BJP says grand alliance

By Anuj Cariappa

New Delhi, Apr 08: The Opposition grand-alliance in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday organised its first joint rally, where its leaders not only slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which they claimed will be defeated in the Lok Sabha polls, but also castigated the Congress, saying it does not want the grouping to win and will only divide votes.

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, RLD chief Ch Ajit Singh wave at the supporters during their joint election campaign rally at Deoband in Saharanpur

In a grand show of strength of the anti-BJP coalition in the religiously sensitive town in Saharanpur district, which goes to polls in the first phase on April 11, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Ajit Singh addressed the rally, and announced only their alliance can challenge the BJP.

"The Congress is not strong enough to give a tough fight to the BJP. Only the grand-alliance can,"said Mayawati, who addressed the rally first.

In UP's Deoband, locals say Muslims should not be used as political tool during polls

"The Congress too has this realisation. But they think whether we win or not, alliance should not win. They have given tickets on caste and religious calculations to help the BJP," she claimed.

Mayawati said the Congress was busy dividing the votes and cautioned the gathering to guard against any such attempt.

"In western UP, where people of all communities live...in Saharanpur, Bareilly, where there is a huge Muslim population...I want to tell the Muslim community...don't divide your votes...give it to the BSP, SP and RLD alliance," she told the rally at the Jamia Tibitiya Medical College ground here. The venue wore a festive look with workers of the alliance partners carrying party flags in myriad hues.

The BSP chief also said the BJP will advertise its "hawa-hawai (lofty)" schemes till the poll results are announced, wasting thousands of crores of money which could be used for the welfare of the poor.

"If the PM (Narendra Modi) was serious about welfare of the poor, they would not have been inaugurating schemes after polls were announced. They would have performed during their five years. In the last budget...whatever announcements were made by the government were nothing but empty poll promises," she said.

"Now that the BJP is panicking, you should know they are on their way out...and grand alliance will come to power," she said.

She was equally critical of the Congress' Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), under which the party promise a minimum guaranteed income to the poor.

"The Congress too has been making tall claims, haven't they been given enough chances for decades? The Nyay scheme is not a stable solution for removing poverty, the BSP believes giving jobs to every hand is," she said.

Muslim vote is expected to be one of the deciding factors this election, especially in western UP. Deoband is a town in Saharanpur where the Darool Ulum, one of the biggest learning centres of the Muslims, is located.

The Dalit leader also flayed the BJP government for "misusing" probe agencies.

"Even people from backward communities are suffering. The divisive thought process is hurting these communities. These communities are not benefiting from the reservation. They are being exploited. Minorities are also suffering," she said.

How crucial are Muslim votes for Saharanpur?

"Removing Modi is not enough, (UP CM) Yogi (Adityanath) also needs to be shown the door."

On corruption, she bracketed the Congress and the BJP together.

"The Congress was tainted by the Bofors scam, BJP by the Rafale," she said, "you don't need to give another chance to them. These parties have already been given enough chances".

She also criticised opinion polls, alleging they are used by political parties to "misguide voters". "Do not get swayed," she appealed to the electorate.

Mayawati, who had to check the slogan shouting supporters, said if voted to power, farmers will no longer be in debt.

Yadav, who lashed out at Prime Minister Modi accusing him of failing to keep his promises, said, "The policies of both the Congress and the BJP are the same...The Congress does not want to bring in a change."

The SP president took a swipe at the ruling BJP asking its leaders to take a pledge not to speak lies during the holy period of Navaratri.

"In 2014, we trusted a 'chaiwala' (tea seller), the poll promise of crores of jobs and so many other promises. Now we are being told to trust the 'chowkidar'. We will remove 'chowkidars' (watchmen) from all the 'chowkis' (post)," he told the crowd, that cheered and applauded him.

"We want to appeal to the BJP leaders...during this holy period of Navratri, you should pledge not to speak a lie," he said.

Hitting back at the PM for his criticism of the alliance, the SP leader said, "This 'gathbandhan' (alliance) is not 'milawat' (adulterated), this is 'mahaparivartan' (mega change)."

"They call us 'milawat gathbandhan'... they are drunk on power. This is an alliance for electing a new government and new prime minister."

RLD president Ajit Singh, who is contesting from the Muzaffarnagar seat, took a dig at the promise of 'achchhe din', saying Modi wasn't talking about people's, but his own 'achche din'.

"All are aware that the BJP is anti-farmer. It came to power in 2014 because of riots," Singh alleged. He said Modi calls himself a 'fakir' (hermit).

"Let us all be a fakir like him...will wear new suits and tour the entire world and when fail to fulfil responsibilities will say bye bye I am a 'fakir'. Will you keep such a government or kick it out?" he asked the gathering.

"Modi said Rs 15 lakhs will come...has anyone checked the account? Does the PM of India tell a lie? No. He never speaks the truth. His parents have not advised him to speak the truth," he said.

Stay up to date with our election coverage here

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