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Amethi dalit to get new house, courtesy Priyanka Gandhi

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | January 12, 2003 05:12 IST

In a move likely to cause further concern to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, Congressmen in Amethi on Sunday propose to hand over a new house, built at the instance of party president Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka, to the dalit she had helped.

During her visit to Amethi in November 2002, Priyanka had helped Ram Bhajan register a First Information Report against some people who had demolished his house.

Before departing, she had asked Youth Congress workers to mobilise resources and rebuild Bhajan's house through shramdaan (voluntary labour).

This act, which endeared Priyanka to the dalit population of the state, had rattled Mayawati, who claims to be a champion of the dalits.

Mayawati had then ordered the local administrative machinery to avoid occurrence of any situation that could give the Congress president's daughter the halo of a 'dalit messiah'.

She hurriedly organised a BSP rally in Amethi and in a desperate move to woo the local people declared Amethi as the state's 71st district.

The move, however, backfired as neither Ram Bhajan nor other dalits in the area were not amused with Mayawati's new name for Amethi -- Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar.

Attempts to woo Ram Bhajan, who was even asked by the district administration to flag-off a new bus service introduced last week between Punnpur and Lucknow (via Amethi), also failed.

In a bid to further rattle Mayawati, Congressmen now plan to hand over the ownership papers of a newly-built house to Bhajan on January 12, Priyanka's birthday.

"Priyanka would entrust physical possession of the house to Ram Bhajan on her next visit in February," state Congress spokesman Akhilesh Singh said.

Ram Bhajan, who had declined the chief minister's offer of a government house, has gladly accepted the house that had been built through 'shramdaan' by local Congress activists.

"Some thakurs (persons of an upper caste) bulldozed my home and uprooted me from the place where I had been living for more than a decade. Where was the (Mayawati's) Bahujan Samaj Party when I was running from pillar to post to get my grievance heard?" Ram Bhajan asked while speaking to reporters in Amethi on Saturday.

"Priyankaji came to my rescue without even my approaching her, at a time when I really need some help," he added.

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