BJP weaves caste, triple talaq into temple narrative in Uttar Pradesh

The BJP is organising a mega Dalit conclave on December 26-27 at Kanshiram Smriti Upvan in Lucknow where CM Yogi Adityanath had taken the oath of office (Photo: PTI)
Amid the high-pitch Ram temple rhetoric and allegations of corruption over the Rafale deal in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, the BJP has started preparing the soil for consolidating its vote bank, especially the backwards and Dalits.

With the prospects of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) jointly countering the BJP in Uttar Pradesh alive, the BJP realises the heavy cost it would pay if they join hands.

To preempt their move, the BJP recently held meetings of backward castes in UP under the stewardship of its state backward face and deputy chief minister, Keshav Prasad Maurya. Now, the party is gearing up to hold a mega Dalit conclave in Lucknow on December 26-27 to woo the community, which had been staunch Congress supporters before switching loyalties to the BSP.

BJP President Amit Shah will be the chief guest at the “Dalit maha-adhiveshan” for a direct outreach to the community, which has over the past few elections been warming up to the saffron party, primarily owing to the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his deft political messaging. The Scheduled Caste Morcha has invited Modi to address the conclave, although the Prime Minister’s Office has not confirmed this.  About 15,000 BJP office-bearers from all over the country belonging to the party’s scheduled caste wing, apart from almost 50,000 people, are expected to attend the mega event.
The BJP has since 2014 successfully made inroads into the community through its outreach programmes, including breaking bread at Dalit households and through the slogan of “sabka saath, sabka vikas”, symbolising the benefit of all citizens irrespective of caste and community. These fetched rich political dividends to the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and successive state polls in the Hindi belt, including UP.

Nonetheless, some issues have caused concern among party mandarins with regard to Dalit votes. The issue of reservation in promotion and the Supreme Court observation on the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Act are likely to figure on the agenda of the conclave, where the party would clarify its stand and soothe the nerves of the Dalits in the context of opposition parties continuing to paint the BJP as anti-Dalit, citing sporadic incidents of violence against the members of the community in BJP-ruled states, including UP.

While the Dalits constitute roughly 17 per cent of India’s population, they are estimated to comprise nearly 22 per cent in the country’s most populous and politically significant state of UP.

The conclave will be hosted at the Kanshiram Smriti Upvan, the venue where Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had taken the oath of office on March 19 last year in the presence of Modi, Shah and other senior union cabinet ministers and party leaders.
Special publicity material and pamphlets are being prepared, which would list the government’s welfare schemes pertaining to cooking gas, power connection, health, etc, which are purportedly benefitting the Dalits the most. The foot soldiers of the party would also fan out to Dalit-dominated villages for mass contact programmes, apprising them of the government’s achievements. Kaushal Kishore, who is an MP and the party’s Scheduled Caste Morcha national president, has been assigned the responsibility of organising the conclave.

“The BJP is the only party working towards realising the dreams of Ambe-dkar,” he told Business Standard, adding, it was felt there was an urgent need to directly communicate with the community about the good work being done by the BJP and to counter the “misinformation” campaign of the Opposition.

The BJP is organising another politically significant conclave on triple talaq victims in December. The party’s UP minority wing is preparing a database of such victims for inviting them to share their grievances. The idea is to pitch the party as an inclusive outfit, including the minorities and women. 

The minorities wing has been tasked with launching a membership drive among Muslims in all the 75 districts in UP. Besides, the party is working towards deploying two members of the minority community in about 15,000 Muslim-dominated polling booths in the state. As a proactive signal to the community, the Adityanath government has inducted cricketer-turned-politician Mohsin Raza, a Shia, as minister of state, while another Shia leader, Bukkal Nawab, was elected member of the legislative council (MLC).

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