Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, whose comment on fielding "weak Congress candidates to eat into BJP votes" has drawn skepticism from Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, said today: "I would rather die than help the BJP in any way." The opposition gathbandhan of Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati has accused the Congress of splitting anti-BJP votes by fielding its own candidates in Uttar Pradesh and by having one of its top leaders, Priyanka Gandhi, campaign for them.
"I can never have anything to do with that destructive ideology, never, not in my life. Every Congress candidate in Uttar Pradesh will cut into the votes of the BJP and no one else. I am very clear about this," asserted Priyanka Gandhi, who joined politics two months ago and is the Congress's campaign in-charge for 41 of Uttar Pradesh's 80 seats.
The 47-year-old spoke to NDTV while campaigning in Raebareli, the parliamentary constituency of her mother Sonia Gandhi.
Responding to BSP chief Mayawati's vitriolic attacks on the Congress, Priyanka Gandhi repeated: ""I have not said I am putting weak candidates in areas. I said Congress is fighting these elections on its own strength. Our candidates are fighting strongly in most constituencies. I was asked this specific question that said are you benefitting the BJP? I said I would die than benefit the BJP. I have made it extremely clear in my research that we have chosen candidates that are fighting strongly or cutting their votes."
Her comments on Wednesday have stirred the pot in India's most politically important state, where the BJP is up against the Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav combine but hopes that the opposition's votes will be divided because of the Congress. "It is clear that our candidates are putting up a tough fight. Where they are strong enough, they will win on their own. Where they are weaker, we have fielded candidates that will eat into BJP votes," the Congress general secretary had said.
Both Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav were dismissive about the statement. "I don't believe that the Congress has fielded weak candidates anywhere. No party does it. People are not with them, so they are making excuses," said Akhilesh Yadav.
The BSP chief's critique was even more biting. "The BJP and the Congress are the same. Don't waste your vote on the Congress. Is Rahul Gandhi immature? Why did he hug Prime Minister (Narendra Modi?)," Mayawati scoffed.