The Samajwadi Party (SP) – the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh – has decided to raise the issues of protecting cows and cleaning up the Ganga prominently in its bid to counterbalance the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in the Hindi heartland.
To begin with Shivpal Yadav, UP irrigation minister and party president Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger brother, met Hindu saints in Haridwar in Uttarakhand on Monday and later discussed strategy with party leaders in Dehradun on Wednesday.
“Gai aur Ganga koi unkee akele ke hain kya? (Does the cow and the Ganga belong to them alone (BJP)?” Shivpal Yadav said while replying to Hindustan Times’ query.
The powerful state minister said his party will soon start mobilising people on protecting cows and the Ganga, which originates from Gangotri in Uttarakhand and flows till the Bay of Bengal and is considered sacred by millions of Hindus in the country.
The party has a following among minorities in UP. However, in the last few months as the debate on banning beef was raging, some of the SP leaders including cabinet minister Azam Khan, Rajya Sabha MP Munnavar Salim and Mulayam’s daughter-in-law Aparna spoke against cow killing.
“Cow is treated as the mother in many parts of the country and we are no different,” Shivpal said.
He claimed during his two-day visit to Uttarakhand he met several saints and they have given him ‘blessings’. “The saints are with us in our mission (to clean Ganga and save cows),” he added.
The SP seems to be working on a similar direction, considering the fact that UP goes to polls next year, as the Narendra Modi government whose ambitious Namami Ganga project is also aimed at cleaning the Ganga.
On Tuesday, Yadav laid the foundation stone for developing ‘Shiv-Ki-Pauri’ on the banks of Ganga in Haridwar. Some of the Ganga canals in Uttarakhand are still under the control of UP irrigation department and the upcoming project will come up on the state’s property.
During the programme, Yadav was joined by some saints including Chidanand Muni, head of Rishikesh-based Parmarth Niketan.