ALLAHABAD / VARANASI: BJP president Amit Shah had lunch at a Dalit home in Varanasi and addressed a farmers’ rally in Allahabad on Tuesday, stepping up the party’s efforts to connect with voters in Uttar Pradesh ahead of elections in 2017.
His visit comes four days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose Saharanpur in western UP to mark two years in office, virtually launching the BJP’s campaign in this political bellwether state.
Shah urged the crowd of farmers and locals to give the reins of the state to the BJP so they could usher in development and “get rid of the goonda raj and bharsht raj” of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.
“The people of UP gave 73 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state to the BJP and helped the Modi government come to power with an absolute majority. Half the work is done, I appeal to the people to complete the process of change by voting the BJP to power in the state,” he said.
Despite the BJP’s impressive showing in the 2014 general elections, it remains a marginal player in the state’s politics, which is dominated by the ruling SP and Mayawati’s BSP.
Shah used the opportunity to hit out at the Congress too: “Rahul Gandhi asks what the Modi government did in the last two years. I want to tell him… The previous (UPA) government gave people scams while the BJP gave the country a decisive PM who stood with farmers when flood and hailstorm wreaked havocs and supported soldiers when they braved bullets.”
Accused by rivals of being anti-farmer, the BJP has been highlighting the Centre’s welfare programmes, including a farm insurance scheme and the banking-for-all Jan Dhan Yojana.
Before landing in Allahabad, Shah stopped for lunch at Jogiyapur village in Varanasi, the PM’s constituency. Jogiyapur has a sizeable population of the Bind community, an extremely backward class demanding quota benefits. The BJP, and Shah, have been making a big effort to reach out to Dalits, who traditionally support the BSP in UP.
Shah shared a simple meal of stuffed bitter gourd, gourd kofta, dal, rice and chapatti with his host, Girija Prasad Bind, and others. Earlier this month, he had taken a dip with Dalit sadhus in the Kshipra river in Ujjain during the Simhastha Kumbh.
Mayawati called Shah’s lunch “nautanki” while CM Akhilesh Yadav of the SP said it was a political move with elections in mind.