While BSP chief Mayawati is caught in the past, blaming EVMs for her humiliating UP loss, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is already looking ahead.
Eye on 2019 Lok Sabha polls where it would again look up to UP to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid, the BJP has launched fresh plans to connect with state’s 21% dalits who were the mainstay of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) till 2014.
Quite successful in making inroads into the community vote bank, the BJP and its allies had won 73 of the total 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and 75 out of 85 reserved seats in assembly polls held recently.
The party will host social harmony feasts (‘samarasta bhoj’) on Ambedkar Jayanti (April 14).
In the feasts, upper caste party leaders would dine with community members in their colonies even as chief minister Yogi Adityanath and several of his ministers are scheduled to visit the Ambedkar Mahasabha office in Lucknow where urns of Dalit ideologue are kept.
Ahead of 2017 UP polls, the BJP’s ideological mentor, RSS, had even got Dalits to perform yagnas in the presence of upper caste party leaders in a bid to correct the impression of BJP being an upper caste party.
Last year, the Akhilesh Yadav government had released funds for celebration of Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary in all UP districts besides sanctioning ₹121 crore budget for the marriage of poor Dalit families in the state. This time Yogi Adityanath government has ordered that primary schools in the state would be made aware of the life and times of Ambedkar on the occasion.
Minister for basic education (independent charge) Anupama Jaiswal said the government wants schools to make students aware of Ambedkar’s contribution.
“We have asked schools to invite parents, senior citizens and other prominent people in their areas on the occasion and host cultural programmes too,” she said. CM has already asked social welfare department to ready a ‘kanyadaan yojana’ under which state would sponsor marriages of poor girls from Dalit families.
The RSS’s social harmony wing would hold seminars focused on the life and times of the leader.
“The CM accepted our invite to visit the campus on a day of special importance to the community. Since Dalits are on BJP’s agenda, we sincerely hope their condition improves and they find important positions in the party, government and bureaucracy,” Lalji Nirmal, the president of Ambedkar Mahasabha told HT.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the Mahasabha office in January 2016 to lay the blueprint of party’s Dalit agenda in UP ahead of the state elections.
On the occasion, party cadres would also be popularising new digital payments app - BHIM - or Bharat Interface For Money that was named after Ambedkar and launched by Modi last year.
“We would be visiting Dalits, OBCs and all sections of the society to explain the functioning of digital payments app,” said Abhijat Mishra, general secretary, BJP youth wing.
Yogi Adityanath would also be visiting the RSS office in Nirala Nagar on the occasion, said UP BJP city unit chief Mukesh Sharma.
For the desired Dalit-connect, the BJP is looking to replace Keshav Prasad Maurya, its OBC party chief in UP with a Dalit after Maurya’s elevation as the deputy chief minister. The BJP follows the principle of one-man, one-post. An RSS leader said along with Ambedkar they would be celebrating the birth anniversaries of all Dalit icons – from Narayan Swamy to Jyotiba Phule. “The Sangh never believes in caste. Our aim is to unify Hindus and this is the goal we are working on,” he said.