Battle of titans in UP: Maya, Sonia cross swords

The battle reached a feverish pitch as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and BSP leader Mayawati crossed swords.

Lucknow/New Delhi: A week before polling begins in Uttar Pradesh, the battle reached a feverish pitch Wednesday as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and BSP leader Mayawati crossed swords, calling themselves the saviour of India`s most populous state.

Addressing major public rallies in UP where balloting will be staggered Feb 8 to March 3, Mayawati accused the central government of starving the state of development funds. Gandhi asserted that Rs.100,000 crore given to the state did not reach the poor and linked Mayawati to corruption.

In Sitapur, a Dalit citadel, an upbeat Mayawati pointed to the large crowds that had gathered to listen to her as a sign of her invincibility. She claimed that her government had done more work in the past five years than any other government since India`s independence.

Asked if she was confident of winning, Mayawati said: "You can judge seeing the crowds."

Pitching for an inclusive growth in the state which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, Mayawati, the first Dalit chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, said: "There is need to ensure progress of all communities. Only the BSP can ensure that.
"The centre did not cooperate with us fully," she charged.

Holding her first rally in UP, Gandhi slammed the Mayawati government for "inefficient implementation of centrally funded programmes" and questioned the Dalit leader`s motives behind dismissing 21 of her ministers on the eve of elections.

Speaking in Gonda town, Gandhi said though the UPA government provided Rs.100,000 crore in developmental funds to Uttar Pradesh in recent years, it had not reached the poor because of an "inept" state administration.

Asking people to vote for the Congress, Gandhi said: ""Then, we will have a government of the common people and the poor.
"The present chief minister dismissed 21 of her ministers on election eve. She was not able to see their corruption in the past five years. I want to ask whether taking resignations has made her government clean? Is this not (a case of) cheating the people?"

Gandhi charged non-Congress governments of ruining the state since the Congress has been out of power in 1989.

"These parties have done nothing for the state. They have filled their own pockets," she said.

The Congress has shown signs of revival in the state.

The Congress won only 22 seats in the 403-member state assembly in 2007. But it swept 22 of the Lok Sabha 80 seats in 2009, finishing second among four major parties and stunning foes and friends alike.

congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and RLD chief Ajit Singh will address a joint rally at Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh Thursday.