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Sonia should apologise to the nation, says Mayawati

By From our correspondents in New Delhi/Lucknow
Last updated on: July 16, 2009 17:47 IST
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Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Thursday demanded that the Centre book UP Congress Committee president Ritu Bahuguna Joshi, for her alleged inflammatory comments against the Bahujan Samaj Party chief, under the Prevention of Atrocities Act against Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes.

Mayawati condemned the language used by the Congress' state unit chief and said that BSP workers were so upset that they wanted to take to the streets. "That would lead to law and order problems, but I have asked them to exercise restraint," she said.

"The most painful thing is that Sonia Gandhi has remained silent over the issue. She has neither condemned this humiliating, uncivilised and derogatory statement, nor has she taken any action against her at the party level.

"This clearly shows that the humiliating statement by Joshi was made at the instance of the Congress high command," the UP Chief Minister said at a press conference, adding that the comments were 'not at all pardonable'.

Mayawati claimed that the monetary compensation being paid to a rape victim was strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Dalit Act.

Talking to mediapersons, she said, "Whatever we were paying to Dalit rape victims was determined by none other than the Congress, which was responsible for drafting the provisions of the Dalit Act."

"Personally, I am not satisfied with the provisions for punishment under the law. I would recommend nothing short of life imprisonment or death sentence to a rapist, and that too irrespective of caste and creed," Mayawati declared

"If the Congress feels so strongly against the existing provisions, why doesn't it change the law through suitable amendments or by bringing in a new enactment", she asked.

She also refuted allegations that members of her party were involved in ransacking and setting Bahuguna Joshi's house on fire on Wednesday night.

"I have a feeling that the attack has been stage-managed by the Congress party itself, with the intent to divert the main issue of Joshi's highly condemnable remarks against me", Mayawati told a hurriedly convened press conference in Lucknow on Thursday afternoon.

Even as Jitendra Singh Babloo, a Member of Legislative Assembly of the BSP, was clearly visible among the arsonists, Mayawati claimed, "My partymen are well disciplined and there is no question of their involvement in any such act, especially since I had personally told them to hold back their anger against Joshi's remarks."

The government has ordered an impartial enquiry into the incident, she said.

The UP CM has also convened a meeting of the 32 Members of Parliament of her party -- 21 from the Lok Sabha and 11 from the Rajya Sabha -- at 10 am on Friday morning. The MPs would discuss their next course of action and await instructions from the party's top brass.

If the BSP MPs decide to stall the proceedings in the Parliament for a second day in a row, the Question Hour and discussions on the Agriculture and Power Ministry grants
for the 2009-2010 Budget will have to be postponed.

Mayawati on Thursday spoke to many of the BSP MPs and directed them to make a big
issue about the alleged inflammatory statement made by Bahuguna Joshi.

Sensing the mood of the BSP MPs, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad stayed away from today's Parliamentary proceedings.

However, the UP CM refused to take any questions from the media.

The BSP also stepped up its campaign against Bahuguna Joshi by demanding an apology from Congress president Sonia Gandhi for the UPCC chief's alleged derogatory remarks against Mayawati.

BSP national general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra steered clear of questions about whether his party would withdraw support to the Congress-led coalition at the Centre.

"The Congress president should apologise to the nation on the floor of the Lok Sabha for her UP party chief's derogatory remarks. The House should pass a resolution condemning the remarks," Mishra told reporters outside Parliament, which witnessed an uproar on the issue.

Describing Joshi's remarks as 'shameful' and smacking of casteist overtones, he said despite such comments from the UPCC chief, no action had been taken against her by the Congress leadership.

"This shows that Joshi's comments had the approval of her party's top brass. Otherwise, she would have been sacked by now. If the Congress high command does not act against her, it will prove their connivance," Mishra said.

"Despite such provocative remarks by Joshi, Mayawati appealed to all her party cadres and the Dalit community to maintain calm across the country," he said.

The BSP leader said his party's Members of Parliament had given notices of adjournment motion in advance in both Houses. He also asked Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar as to how she could tolerate such remarks against a fellow Dalit.

Additional inputs from PTI

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From our correspondents in New Delhi/Lucknow