Demon to deity: Rise of BJP’s poll star Niranjan Jyoti

  • Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 10, 2014 01:38 IST

Attacked fiercely for her “ramzaadon” and “haramzaadon” remark, Union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti is paradoxically emerging as a potent weapon in the BJP’s armoury.

The Lok Sabha MP from western UP’s Fatehpur is already the party’s star campaigner in Delhi — especially in communally charged pockets like Trilokpuri. She will be a prominent campaigner in UP as well.

Reason: Her backward boatman caste is politically crucial, and matches the muscle of the influential Yadavs. It remained loyal to the SP till this year’s Lok Sabha election, in which it voted BJP. The community is roughly 4% of UP’s population. The BJP reckons she will also connect with fishermen communities elsewhere — the kolis of Maharashtra and Gujarat, for instance.

“Targeting Sadhvi has made her a leader of her community. We have been getting representation for different bodies of Mallah community which are solidly behind her. She has suddenly become a star in her caste,” said a senior Union minister requesting anonymity.

A bulk of the community is settled along the banks of different rivers of UP including the Ganga. The SP converted them into loyal voters by roping in bandit Phoolan Devi — who came from the same caste and enjoyed their sympathy. She got elected to the Lok Sabha from Mirzapur in 1996 on a SP ticket.

The mix of being a Hindutva poster-woman — the Sadhvi is regular with pravachans (religious discourse) — and from a backward caste helps the BJP. In 2017 UP election, the BJP plans to play to the Hindu gallery while beating the development drum. The Sadhvi perfectly fits the bill.

“Our best electoral result in the UP assembly came when non-Yadav OBCs and the upper castes rallied behind us after the temple movement. Add Dalits to this, the combination can propel us to power in UP again,” said a senior BJP leader closely involved with the state’s affairs.

The BJP sees massive electoral gains in districts along the banks of Ganga, Saryu and Yamuna because of the Sadhvi. These districts include Badaun, Sajanpur, Varanasi, Sonbhadra and Faizabad.

“The boatman community connects with most backward communities and Dalits, but not with the Yadavs and Kurmis. Most of Sadhvi’s religious followers come from the most-backward and Dalit communities,” said another BJP leader.

The BJP leaders want to consolidate party’s Lok Sabha gains in the boatman community to match the SP’s Yadav might.

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