The issue of ‘palayan’ or alleged Hindu exodus from western Uttar Pradesh (UP) could find resonance during the BJP’s campaign with Prime Minister Narendra Modi likely to raise the matter during his rallies in the region in February, party insiders said.
Though the formal schedule of the PM’s rallies is awaited, Modi may begin the party’s west UP campaign from February 4 followed by three more rallies – one each in Aligarh Muslim University, Bijnor and Pilibhit – over the next seven days.
Since the exodus issue has found a prominent mention in the BJP’s UP manifesto, the party leaders say that the possibility of the PM Modi taking up the issue during his election speeches in west UP were “high.”
Meerut is about 50 kilometres from Muzaffarnagar where the 2013 communal riots split the Jat-Muslim unity, leading to massive polarisation in favour of the BJP.
‘Palayan’ also figures prominently on the BJP’s election manifesto for Uttar Pradesh as the BJP is seeking to target both the SP and the BSP, who have refuted BJP’s ‘palayan’ claim.
The BJP has fielded lawmakers like Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana, accused of Muzaffarnagar riots, as its candidates from west UP.
“Palayan as well as release of over 800 Hindus who are in jail after being framed in various riots will surely figure in my campaign,” says Rana, who has started making controversial remarks that are aimed at religious polarisation.
A National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) report has admitted that over 250 Hindu families left Kairana town due to communal tension and “fear”. However, the UP government had rejected the BJP’s ‘palayan’ claim. The police had admitted to partial ‘exodus’ but added it was largely for “better opportunities”.
Releasing the manifesto on Saturday, BJP chief Amit Shah, who is expected to hold several rallies in west UP, had said that if voted to power his party would set up a special police department to check ‘palayan.’
“It’s a reality in west UP,” he had said, adding that his party will make district magistrates accountable for large-scale migration. The BJP has fielded Mriganka Singh, daughter of party MP Hukum Singh, who had first highlighted the issue of ‘palayan’ as its candidate from Kairana. The BJP has already drafted its firebrand MP Yogi Adityanath into the west UP campaign. The BJP has also met the Election Commission officials, demanding that arrangements be made to ensure that those who had left west UP out of ‘fear’ are able to cast their vote.
Former Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) functionary-turned-UP BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, too, is scheduled to visit the Muslim-dominated Deoband region on February 1 to consolidate the party’s OBC vote in the assembly segment from where Congress had registered a surprise win in a by-poll in 2016.
The BJP won the Muzaffarnagar assembly seat in a by-poll in 2016.