Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and BJP president Amit Shah traded barbs on Friday over relief to rain-ravaged farmers, an issue poised to test both leaders in the rural polls due this year.
Yadav accused the Narendra Modi government of doing little after rain and hailstorms battered farms and triggered suicides and shock deaths among farmers.
“How much funds have they (Centre) given and to whom … Did I keep the funds in my pocket?” he asked, making fun of Shah’s accusations at a rally in Hathras that the Samajwadi Party government in UP has failed to distribute farmer relief sanctioned by the Centre.
Shah’s pro-farmer rhetoric was in line with the party’s focus on the panchayat polls, a test before the 2017 assembly polls.
“The BJP came to power at the Centre because of 73 MPs from UP. If the party comes to power after the 2017 assembly elections, UP will be the most developed state in the country,” he said.
Shah had set his sight on the assembly polls, describing it as the final frontier, after scripting a turnaround for the party in UP during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
But a crushing defeat in the Delhi polls and bypoll losses in 12 assembly seats in UP have forced the BJP to rethink its strategy on expanding its footprint in the state.
Saddled with an anti-farmer tag over the controversial land acquisition bill and mounting peasant suicides, the BJP has planned to engage Union ministers and local leaders to connect with the masses.
“Nearly 300 of the 403 assembly constituencies have a rural character. The panchayat polls would help us connect with rural voters,” said UP BJP leader Shiv Pratap Shukla.
Though rural polls are not held on party lines, the idea is to get BJP workers ready for the UP elections.