BJP president Amit Shah cancelled his ‘padyatra’ or foot march in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut on Friday to protest the murder of a trader who was allegedly shot dead by robbers a day ago, and attacked the Samajwadi Party government over the deteriorating law and order situation in the poll-bound state.
Shah’s padyatra was scheduled in the old city area and was to move through Sharda Road before reaching out to the traders’ community in Kabari Bazar, Sarrafa, Valley Bazar and other adjoining markets. Businessmen are considered to be the traditional voters of the Bharatiya Janata Party but were unhappy because of the Centre’s demonetisation that affected their trade.
Meerut is in the crucial and communally sensitive region of western UP where the party had fared well in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The politically crucial state will vote in a seven-phase election for 403 assembly seats from February 11 to March 8. Polling in Meerut will be held in the first phase.
Calling chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi shahzades or princes, Shah said: “The two shahzades will jointly address a press conference in the afternoon and I demand their reply on the killing of a young trader.”
“Development can’t take place where traders were killed,” he said while addressing a gathering of supporters at the Kabari Bazar crossing.
As Shah called upon BJP workers to work hard to uproot the Samajwadi Party government, he claimed 24 incidents of rape, 21 of attempt to rape and 13 murders take place in the state every day.
“UP had witnessed more than 500 incidents of communal clashes in past five years,” he said while claiming that only the BJP can provide good governance in the state.
Shah recounted the sops for farmers, youths, women, traders and other sections of the society announced by the BJP in its manifesto.
He also asked the gathering to keep a two-minute silence to pay tribute to 21-year-old Abhishek Verma.
Abhishek, the son of a gutka distributor Sushil Verma, was killed after some men attacked and robbed them at their office on Sharda Road. Four other traders, including Sushil, sustained bullet injuries in the firing by the fleeing men.
Angry traders blocked roads after his death and shouted slogans against police for failing to reign in criminals. They also demanded the suspension of the station house officer and circle officer of the area.
Abhishek’s grieving family refused to meet the BJP president after the party’s MP from Meerut Rajendra Agarwal, traders’ leader Vashistha and other BJP leaders approached them with Shah’s message.
“We don’t want politics over the murder of our beloved Abhishek,” a jittery family member said.
Shah, who was told about the family’s decision, returned to the hotel where he is staying.
Agarwal told Hindustan Times that the family was reluctant to meet people and they decided to respect their feelings at the time of grief. He added he will try to arrange for a conversation over the phone between Shah and Abhishek’s family.
Shah will address rallies in Dholana of Hapur district and Khurja in Bulandshahar district in the evening.