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BSP to give issue-based support

By Our Staff Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MAY 18. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will give "issue-based" support from outside to a Congress-led coalition at the Centre.

In a letter addressed to the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the party said that it would support the coalition government to strengthen the secular forces.

"We cannot assert ourselves if we join the government," the party president and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mayawati, told reporters here.

Ms. Mayawati said her party would support any person nominated by the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, as the prime minister. "When we submitted our letter of support to the Congress-led secular government this morning, the situation was different with Ms. Sonia Gandhi being the prime ministerial candidate," she said.

Ms Mayawati said her party could review its decision and even decide to join the government if the coalition worked in the interest of the bahujan samaj. However, if the policies of the new government were not in the interest of the bahujan samaj, then the party would withdraw support.

On the possibility of a Congress-BSP tie-up in Uttar Pradesh, she said the BSP still had apprehensions about the `manuwadi' mentality of the "upper caste" people in the Congress. "We will be watching their thinking towards the bahujan samaj and if there is a perceptible change, we can join the government. But as of now, there is none," Ms. Mayawati said adding that the BSP was not against the "upper caste" but "our fight is against the social and economic inequality in society."

On the Samajwadi Party joining the coalition, the BSP leader said that she had no objection to any SP leader being given a Cabinet rank but she would protest if given the post of the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister.

Asked whether any Congress leader had spoken to her or asked her to support the new government, Ms. Mayawati said the former Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, spoke to her after her decision to support the coalition on May 13 and conveyed to her that the Congress as well as the Left wanted her to join the government. The Congress MP, Rajiv Shukla, called her up this morning to enquire about the letter of support. He even told her that Ms. Gandhi wanted to speak to her. "I told him that I would meet her any time after the government was formed."

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