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HindustanTimes Wed,03 Sep 2014

BJP plays with caste, religion in eastern UP

Sunita Aron, Hindustan Times  Lucknow, May 07, 2014
First Published: 00:41 IST(7/5/2014) | Last Updated: 00:46 IST(7/5/2014)

Varanasi, the nerve centre of Poorvanchal, had remained insulated from communal riots and subsequent polarisation in Muzaffarnagar 900km away. The backward region was also untouched by BJP’s Uttar Pradesh campaign manager Amit Shah’s controversial statement in Muzaffarnagar that it was time to take revenge through the EVM.

If Shah and his mentor, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, are playing the caste and communal cards, it could be because the party fared poorly in friction-less Poorvanchal in 2009. It won only four the 33 seats going to polls on Wednesday and the last phase on May 12.

The resurrection formula is apparently to tear into the caste strongholds of SP and BSP and the Gandhi bastion of Amethi. After Monday’s mega show, an aggressive BJP is now even hoping to wrest Amethi from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi by playing the ‘poverty card’ in his constituency.

A look at BJP’s strategy in the past three days reveals it wants to regain Poorvanchal at any cost. Modi made that clear through tweets highlighting his backward face.

While reiterating that he comes from ‘neechli jaati’ (lower caste), he stoked the people’s emotions by talking about the role of lower castes in taking the country forward. In one of his tweets, he said: “Samajik rup se nichle varg se aaya hun, Isliye meri rajniti unlogo ke liye niche rajniti hai’ (I have come from a socially lower caste. That’s why perhaps they find my politics low level).” This was in retaliation to a statement by Priyanka Gandhi.

By projecting his backward face and poor chaiwala background, Modi is attempting to cut into the BSP and SP’s vote bank of economically poor as well as socially backward classes besides weaning away the poor from the Gandhis by fanning their anger over poor development in the area.

Badri Narain of Dalit Resource Centre, who recently toured the Gorakhpur division, said: “The tweets are aimed at weaning away dalit votes from BSP. While Jatavs are solidly behind BSP, other sub-castes have moved to the BJP.” According to him BJP is in direct fight with the BSP on seven of the nine seats in the area.

The BJP has already tasted blood in the communally polarised West. It is now trying to replicate the polarisation game in the East. While Modi talked about Ramrajya from podiums carrying Rama’s images in Faizabad — in focus for the Ram Janmabhoomi issue — Shah labelled Muslim-dominated Azamgarh as the breeding ground for terrorists. SP has a hold in both Faizabad and Azamgarh.

But the party leadership knows much water has flown down river Sarayu since the demolition of Babri mosque. And that the temple is no longer a vote guarantor.


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