Eyes to UP Dalit vote, Priyanka meets Ravan

With an eye to the formidable Dalit vote bank, Congress general secretaries Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia on Wednesday met Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, alias Ravan, at a hospital in Meerut where the latter was admitted a day earlier.

The visit by the two top Congress leaders holds political significance as Chandrashekhar has been trying to make inroads into BSP’s Dalit vote bank, particularly in western UP.

Speaking to the media after visiting Chandrashekhar, both Priyanka and Scindia said the Central and State Governments have failed to provide employment to youths and if anyone dared to come on road to expose the failure, the BJP Governments got him arrested and put him in jail.

Congress leaders accused the Government of misusing official machinery to suppress the voice of opponents.

The visit by Priyanka and Scindia came a day after BSP chief Mayawati ended all speculation about accommodating the Congress in the SP-BSP alliance and said her party would not join hands with the Congress in any State.

On Tuesday, Chandrashekhar was taken into police custody for taking out a procession on cars and bikes without permission, thereby violating the model code of conduct in Deoband. He later took ill after which the authorities shifted him to hospital in Meerut.

The Dalit leader challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and announced that if the Opposition did not field any potent candidate against Modi and his Cabinet colleague Smriti Irani, then he would field his own candidates to defeat the two.

The unscheduled visit is being seen in political circles as an attempt to woo the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh and pit Azad against the BSP.

Talking to reporters after Priyanka 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 ‘bahujan samaj’. She had not come to talk about politics nor did she ask me anything political,” he said.

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 (Amethi).

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