Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s metaphors – from festivals to funerals – for attacking opponents have been the talking point of Mandate 2017 in Uttar Pradesh. So have been his references to local icons to connect with the masses during campaigns for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Beginning his election campaign from western UP’s Meerut on February 4 ahead of the first phase of polling, Modi has addressed 10 election meetings so far.
He set the tone of his poll campaign in Meerut by likening his party’s war against “poverty, mafia raj and goonda raj” to legendary freedom fighter Mangal Pandey’s revolt against the British in 1857.
Though born in Ballia, Pandey is considered a local hero in Meerut which was the epicentre of India’s first war of independent 160 years ago.
The next day in Aligarh, Modi underlined the plight of cottage industries by referring to the once-popular local locks. “It is a pity that the very locks that made Aligarh famous are being used to shut the lock factories,” he said.
He also criticised rival political parties for misusing BR Ambedkar’s name while his government prevented the house where Ambedkar lived abroad from being sold. Aligarh district witnessed violence when an Ambedkar statue was damaged a few years ago.
In Bijnor, Modi paid tributes to Dalit saint Ravidas on his birth anniversary and said BJP goes by his ideals. He warmed up to the dominant Jats in the area by recalling former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh and how the Congress defamed him.
“A farmers’ welfare scheme named after Charan Singh will be launched if BJP forms the government in UP,” he said.
At his next rally stop Badaun, Modi proposed a police battalion each named after three women freedom fighters – Jhaklari Bai, Uda Devi and Awanti Bai – for ensuring safety to women. Jhalkari Bai and Uda Devi are the Bahujan Samaj Party’s symbols of Dalit pride.
Badaun hit headlines three years ago when two Dalit sisters, allegedly gangraped, were found hanging from the branch of a tree.
Modi sympathised with the sugarcane growers’ misery in Lakhimpur Kheri while his speech in Kannauj was peppered with references to potatoes and perfumes.
On February 16, the PM recalled Hardoi’s association with the mythical Prahlad, revered for his devotion to Lord Vishnu. He also referred to Vishnu’s avatar Krishna, who made Gujarat his ‘karmabhoomi’ after being born in UP. “Born in Gujarat, I am working in UP,” he said.
The same day in Barabanki, Modi paid obeisance to Baba Lodheshwar Mahadev (Shiva), a major pilgrimage in the area.
“There is nothing political in Modiji’s recalling local icons during his speeches. It’s a way of giving our legendary leaders respect and acknowledging their contribution to our society,” state BJP spokesperson Harish Srivastava told HT.
SK Dwivedi, Lucknow University’s former professor of political science, said: “The Prime Minister tries connecting with the masses by citing the names of local icons and great leaders but what has pained us sometimes is his language. The words he chooses for his speech should reflect the dignity of the post he is holding.”
- Feb 4, Meerut: Mangal Pandey
- Feb 5, Aligarh: Aligarh’s famous locks
- Feb 8, Ghaziabad: Exile of Lord Ram as exile of development
- Feb 10, Bijnor: Saint Ravidas and Chaudhary Charan Singh
- Feb 11, Badaun: Jhalkari Bai, Uda Devi and Awanti Bai
- Feb 13, Lakhimpur Kheri: Sugarcane growing farmers’ plight
- Feb 15, Kannauj: Kannauj’s famous perfume and potato
- Feb 16, Hardoi: Bhakt Prahlad and Lord Krishna
- Feb 16, Barabanki: Baba Lodheshwar Mahadev (Lord Shiva)
- Feb 19, Fatehpur: Warrior Shivaji and Sardar Patel