Mayawati keeps UPA on tenterhooks on vice president choice


Lucknow/New Delhi : Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati said here Friday that she was yet to make up her mind on supporting the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate for the vice presidential election.

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"UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi did propose a name for vice-president, but we have not been able to take any decision in that regard so far," the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief told a press conference in Lucknow Friday evening after visiting New Delhi earlier in the day.

Asked when she will announce her decision, she said, "I will do so only after consultation with senior leaders of my party."

Even as Mayawati was addressing the press, Gandhi agreed to the Left's proposal to field National Commission for Minorities chairman and retired diplomat Hamid Ansari for the Aug 10 poll to elect the next vice president.

In Thursday's presidential election, the BSP had supported the UPA-Left candidate, Pratibha Patil.

Observers said Mayawati was deliberately keeping the UPA on tenterhooks in order to strike a good bargain with the central government on her new demand for a special financial package for Uttar Pradesh.

The last time she visited New Delhi was when the UPA had sought her party's support for its presidential candidate. She had then urged the central government to clear a proposal for an international airport in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh, which was granted.

On Friday, during her meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, Mayawati submitted a long list of demands working out to a whopping Rs.800 billion central assistance package for the state.

To improve the situation, she requested a special package of Rs.141 billion to develop underdeveloped regions of Poorvanchal and Bundelkhand, apart from a 10-year tax holiday for setting up new industries in these areas.

"Both Bundelkhand in the southern part of the state and Poorvanchal in the east have remained utterly backward and underdeveloped largely on account of socio- economic and geographical factors. Poverty has been on the rise in these areas and the state does not have appropriate financial resources to undertake the desired measures," she said.

"I pointed out to the prime minister that Bundelkhand and Poorvanchal deserved the same special treatment as was being given to Uttarakhand."

She said creating Uttarakhand out of Uttar Pradesh had led to the flight of industries from this state to the Himalayan state because of the special incentives and concessions offered by that state.

"We will be able provide the same concessions only if we receive the desired assistance from the centre," she added.

Asked if the prime minister had given any categorical assurance, she said, "He has decided to constitute a special committee to look into our demands and assured to extend the maximum assistance to the state."

She also urged Manmohan Singh to press ahead with a law to ensure reservation for weaker sections of society in the private and other non-government sectors and also to put such a law in the 9th schedule of the constitution, putting it outside the purview of judicial review.