Rajat Sharma


AKB BJP on Monday launched its poll campaign from Kalyan Singh’s home turf, Aligarh, in Uttar Pradesh. The theme was clear and the target was specific. The occasion was ‘Hindu Gaurav Diwas’ celebrated by the party in Aligarh to commemorate the second death anniversary of Late Kalyan Singh. The ruling party gathered leaders from almost all castes on its platform, even as the rally was addressed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his ministers, Home Minister Amit Shah, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and other central ministers Sanjiv Balyan and B L Verma. Amit Shah said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fulfilled all the dreams of backward Lodh caste leader Kalyan Singh. He said, Kalyan Singh wanted a huge Ram Temple in Ayodhya which will be opened early next year. Shah reminded that it was Kalyan Singh who was the strategist behind BJP winning 73 out of 80 seats from UP for the first time. Shah said the target this time is to win all the 80 seats, and “this will be a fitting tribute to him”. Both Amit Shah and Yogi remembered Kalyan Singh as a “true Ram Bhakt” who chose to sacrifice his chief ministership post-Babri mosque demolition in Ayodhya. Amit Shah recalled how Kalyan Singh guided him in 2013 in strategizing the landslide win from UP during the Lok Sabha polls. Clearly, BJP is sending out the message this time about consolidation of Hindutva and OBC votes in UP. This was evident from the big line-up of leaders and ministers on the dais, from upper castes to backwards and Dalits. From Vasundhara Raje to both Deputy CMs of UP, Keshav Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak, anil Rajbhar, Sandeep Singh, Swatantra Dev Singh, Jatin Prasad and state party chief Bhupendra Chaudhary. BJP has the highest hopes from Uttar Pradesh for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The party leadership feels that BJP may win more LS seats this time compared to 2019, when the NDA had won 64 seats. The party expects to improve its tally. Even those opposed to BJP admit that the party can win anything from 70 to 75 LS seats in UP. There are two main reasons: One, Yogi Adityanath has transformed the law and order scene in UP. The man on the street feels himself safe and is living a peaceful life. This has had its effect on economic development. Earlier, industrialists used to fear investing in UP, but now, the state has become a favourite destination for investors. Two, the dedication of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya in January by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have a huge emotional effect. For 600 years, the Ram Janmasthan has been a symbol of faith for millions of Hindus. At the rally, both Shah and Yogi repeatedly referred to the construction of Ram Temple. Meanwhile, BJP has started mobilizing both forward and backward castes, apart from Dalits. Both Shah and Yogi have tuned the caste equations to a large extent. At the moment, I can only say, it is a “work in progress”.


There is another ‘work in progress’ in West Bengal. Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, while addressing a conference of Imams and muezzins in Kolkata, announced a Rs 500 hike per month in the salaries of imams. She said, a similar Rs 500 hike has been paid in the salaries of Hindu priests. From now on, imams in Bengal will get Rs 3,000 per month and Hindu priests will get Rs 1500 per month. Mamata turned towards BJP and cautioned Muslims to remain on alert against what she called ‘hate speeches’. She alleged that BJP was trying to spoil the atmosphere in Bengal by ‘paying’ some leaders of minorities. She also asked Muslims to remain on guard against CPI(M) and Congress, and said, both these parties are now hand in gloves. Mamata mentioned uniform civil code, National Register of Citizens and Citizenship Amendment Bill, and promised she would now allow these to be implemented in Bengal. She appealed to the influential Maulana of Furufura Sharif to stay away from politics like Ramkrishna Mission’s Belur Math. “I don’t walk around with religion written on my forehead, my religion is in my heart, my mind”, said the chief minister. With LS elections approaching, nobody should be surprised if Mamata hikes the salaries of imams and presents BJP as a bugbear for Muslims. The surprising part was when she said Congress, BJP and CPI(M) are “hand in gloves” in Bengal. Naturally, people will ask, why Mamata attended two opposition conclaves in Patna and Bangalore attended by top Congress and CPI-M leaders. The anti-Modi alliance comprises Mamata, Rahul Gandhi and Sitaram Yechury too, apart from other leaders. Then why are Congress and CPI-M helping BJP in Bengal? Mamata must reply.


Madhya Pradesh is also witnessing a ‘work in progress’ at a frantic pace, with assembly elections due in November. Leaders of both Congress and BJP are organizing free pilgrimage for Hindu voters by buses and trains for visiting Ujjain, Vaishno Devi, Ayodhya and Mathura. Congress leaders have become more religious in public compared to their BJP counterparts. BJP minister Kailash Sarang sent 11,000 devotees in 201 buses for ‘darshan’ of Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain and is soon going to organize a ‘katha’ (discourse) by Bageshwar Baba. The reason: Manoj Shukla, who is vying for a Congress ticket from Sarang’s Narela constituency, has been organizing religious tourism since last two years. Another senior Congress leader P C Sharma, a former minister in Kamal Nath’s cabinet, has also been sending voters on pilgrimage and is himself taking part with people in ‘bhajan kirtan’ events. Another Congress leader Ravindra Jhumarwala, who had gone on Narmada Yatra with former CM Digvijaya Singh, has sent voters of his constituency on Narmada Parikrama this time. These activities have raised the ire of senior Congress leader Aziz Qureshi, former UP governor, who said, “I fail to understand where Nehru’s Congress is going now. Congress leaders are now chanting ‘Jai Ganga Maiya’ ‘Jai Narmada Maiya’, going on pilgrimages. They should die of shame.” Qureshi said, if political parties do not worry about Muslims, then why should the minorities vote for them. The ground reality is, even if both BJP and Congress send voters on pilgrimages, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s election agenda is clear. He is confident people will vote his party back to power. On Monday, he distributed appointment letters to 5,580 teachers. He said, ‘I am not going to give false guarantees about freebies’. I think this is the correct approach. All political parties should follow this principle.

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