Mayawati makes a foray in Telugu states to woo Dalits.
Summary: BSP leader assures she will grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh
Visakhapatnam: Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati with Jana Sena party Chief Pawan Kalyan during a press conference, in Visakhapatnam. Image Credit: PTI
Hyderabad: Leaving behind the heat and dust of the main electoral battle ground of her home state Uttar Pradesh, which she ruled as Chief Minister four times, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati spent two days in two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to send across the message that she was very much in the race for the top job.
Mayawati who addressed an election rally in Vijayawada on Wednesday evening, visited Tirupati and Hyderabad on Thursday addressing a series of meeting.
Significantly Mayawati's BSP is an alliance partner with Jana Sena party of film star Pawan Kalyan and the left parties in Andhra Pradesh.
In her election speeches Mayawati sought to project herself as a "pro poor" leader not confined only to Dalits or the scheduled castes (lower strata of society).
She pointed out that during her rule in Uttar Pradesh peace prevailed and there was security and harmony for all sections of society including the religious minorities. Indicating her confidence that she could very well be at the head of a next coalition government in Delhi, Mayawati assured that she will grant Special Category status to Andhra Pradesh. "Both Congress and the BJP have failed to keep the promise but we will fulfil it", she told the media. She also projected her regional ally Pawan Kalyan as the next Chief Minister of the state.
Her visit was significant as Andhra Pradesh has 17 per cent scheduled caste votes, second biggest block after backward classes. The state also has 29 of the 175 assembly seats reserved for the SCs.
Similarly Telangana has about 20 per cent scheduled caste voters but majority of them sided with the TRS in the December last assembly elections in the state.
Unlike in Uttar Pradesh and a few other northern states BSP has failed to make any major inroads into the Telugu states. The first such major attempt was by BSP founder Kanshi Ram in 1996 general elections but drew a blank. In 2014 BSP had bagged one assembly seat but the MLA ended up defecting to the TRS. It remains to be seen what Mayawati's foray into Andhra Pradesh and Telangana yields.
Who are the Dalits?
Dalits, considered untouchable, are members low-caste Hindu groups and any person outside the caste system. The use of the term and the social disabilities associated with it were declared illegal in the constitutions adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India in 1949.
Mahatma Gandhi called untouchables Harijans ('Children of God') and long worked for their emancipation. However, this name is now considered condescending and offensive. The term Dalit later came to be used, though that too occasionally has negative connotations. The official designation 'scheduled caste' is the most common term now used in India.
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