The first rally of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav's Grand Alliance in Uttar Pradesh -- the state that sends the maximum number of lawmakers to parliament -- turned out a big pitch, not just against the BJP but also the Congress. And the message they sent out held a note of concern about the possibility of splitting votes with the Congress -- a fallout of a three-cornered contest leaders of both parties have brushed off so far.
The Congress, Mayawati said, is fielding such people that it would play into the hands of the BJP.
"Don't split your votes. The Congress is not strong enough to give a tough fight to BJP... only grand alliance can fight the BJP," she said, adding that her remarks were particularly addressed to the "people of the Muslim community".
The Muslim vote is expected to be one of the deciding factors of this election and the choice of Deoband for the first joint rally of the alliance is telling.
A town in the heart of Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh, Deoband is where the Darool Ulum, one of the biggest learning centres of the Muslims is located. The town and adjacent areas have a substantial Muslim population.
Mayawati -- whose decision to keep the Congress out of the alliance in the state has led to a three-cornered contest -- warned the people against succumbing to the Congress's promises of a Basic Minimum Income Scheme, which involves the payment of Rs 6,000 a month.
"Instead of six thousand rupees, we promise jobs in government and private sector," she said. "The BJP will lose this election because of policies inspired by hatred.., especially their "chowkidar" campaign... no matter how much the chhote, bade chowkidars (small or big) try, the BJP will not win," she said.
The Congress and BJP are just "mirror images of each other... the Congress doesn't want to bring change. It is only in pursuit of power" Akhilesh Yadav said.
The Congress is contesting separately on almost all seats in the state, leading to concerns about a split in votes. Leaders of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party have so far denied the possibility.
Census data from 2011 shows Uttar Pradesh has 19 per cent Muslim population - way higher than the national average of 14 per cent Data from earlier elections show that 80 per cent of this vote goes to the Samajwadi Party and 20 per cent to the Congress if the parties contest separately.
A highlight of the Saharanpur rally was the participation of Mayawati's nephew Aakash Anand, After the speech of Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh, Aakash Anand was introduced from the stage as senior BSP leader, sealing the perception about his being the political heir of Mayawati.
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