SP-BSP run for cover as Rahul's guns blaze

Lucknow, Oct 11 (IANS) Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's blistering attack on the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the last two days has caught many by surprise in Uttar Pradesh. It was by far the most scathing attack from the Congress on UP's two main political forces and bitter rivals.

Political observers point out that the SP, BSP and the Congress were "forced post-2009 to align on a secular agenda" ; they largely were eating into each other's votes but the relationship had now become fragile as the UPA government was at the fag end of its tenure. The outside support of both the SP and BSP to the government is redundant as the elections are just around the corner, said a leader.

Moreover, a Congress insider told IANS: "Rahul-ji always had antipathy for regional parties and it was just a matter of time that he publicly spoke his mind out."

The "nonsense" attack on his very own prime minister and government over the controversial ordinance that was aimed at giving a reprieve to tainted and criminal lawmakers, a leader said, dropped enough hints that the Amethi MP was coming of age.

"Rahul Gandhi has always been one who espoused for the Congress to go it alone, be it in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. Now that he is calling the shots, the SP and the BSP will be his targets," a Congress MP said.

Gandhi had on Wednesday described the Akhilesh Yadav government in the state as a "computer that never works". A day earlier, he had slammed BSP chief Mayawati for not "letting other Dalit leaders come up".

While the then ruling BSP had been at the receiving end in the run up to the 2012 state assembly polls, the Samajwadi Party (SP), specially Akhilesh Yadav, has faced flak from the Gandhi scion for the first time.

In an interactive mode during his public rallies in Rampur and Aligarh Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi lashed out at Akhilesh Yadav for giving "non-working laptops as doles to students who had no power to switch them on". The free laptop scheme is very dear to Akhilesh Yadav and one of his close aides told IANS that the chief minister had taken "serious offence" at Gandhi's "diatribe".

It was thus no wonder that instead of the SP spokesman, the soft-spoken Rajendra Chowdhary, the party chose to field Urban Development Minister Azam Khan to take on Gandhi.

"Rahul is afraid of the success of the free laptop scheme and hence is tense about his party's prospects in the (2014) Lok Sabha polls," Khan said.

On Gandhi's reference to the Muzaffarnagar riots being triggered by "vote-seeking parties", Khan asked: "Who will respond to the 50,000 riots under the Congress regime? The Congress has no face to speak on riots as the country has faced unprecedented riots under its rule. Even the Babri mosque was demolished due to their connivance with the BJP and RSS."

The BSP is equally caustic in its response to Gandhi's campaign speeches.

"Everyone knows how much the Congress and Gandhis love Dalits... it's a false propaganda which is being made as a last ditch effort by the party to save its sinking ship," said Swamy Prasad Maurya, who told IANS that Mayawati had already deflated his Dalit campaign.

"This is a party which has not even declared a national holiday on the death anniversary of (BSP founder) Kanshi Ram," Maurya said, while blaming the Congress for the backwardness of the Dalits.

Whatever be the consequences of the battle of words, it is for sure that the script of the 2014 battle for Uttar Pradesh is being written in the most acerbic tone.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted on mohit.d@ians.in)

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