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BJP to focus on Dalit outreach, Hindutva ideology in UP as battle 2019 looms

The BJP’s state executive is meeting to draw up strategy for UP. The party intends to counter caste build-up of the regional parties by combining Hindutva and patriotism.

india Updated: Aug 12, 2018 08:11 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Meerut
2019 elections,Uttar pradesh,Yogi Adityanath
Supporters of Bhartiya Janta Party wave party flags on Amit Shah’s arrival in Chennai on July 9, 2018.(AFP File Photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s strategy in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the 2019 national elections will revolve around Hindutva, nationalism, an outreach to Dalits and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) to counter the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)’s possible alliance, party leaders aware of the plan said.

It has named the venue of its two-day state executive meet in Meerut on August 11 and 12 after Dalit freedom fighter Matadeen Valmiki as part of the strategy. BJP leaders also garlanded statues of Dalit icons like Babasaheb Ambedkar in the run-up to the meet. The BJP swept to power in 2014 on the back of its performance in key states such as Uttar Pradesh, where it won 71 out 80 Lok Sabha seats (an ally won two more). It swept the 2017 assembly elections in the state, winning 320 of 403 seats with allies. It lost the Kairana Lok Sabha and Bijnor assembly by-polls in May to united opposition candidates. It lost Lok Sabha by-polls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur two months before that.

The party leaders said the strategy would be discussed at the meeting. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP chief Amit Shah and Union home minister Rajnath Singh are attending it. The BJP has started scheduling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rallies in the state to communicate to its cadres that all is well . The party hopes to counter or weaken the caste advantage of regional parties with its plan to combine Hindutva and nationalism. The BJP has sought to highlight contributions of forgotten freedom fighters like Valmiki and Dhan Singh ‘Kotwal’, an OBC, during the 1857 revolt as part of the strategy. It is pitching itself as a ‘nationalist’ party that believes in ‘nation first’. The BJP held three back-to-back OBC outreach initiatives featuring the chief minister and deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya in Lucknow ahead of the Meerut meet.

West Uttar Pradesh, where Meerut is located, has a sizeable Dalit and OBC population.T his is seen as the reason for the BJP’s move to name the meeting venue after Valmiki. A Dalit outreach rally could soon be announced in the region, BJP leaders said. One of the leaders said the BJP is planning to make it mandatory to have 20 Dalits and OBCs workers in charge of each of the 1.4 lakh odd booths in the state. The plan would be cleared at the meet and is aimed at increasing the party’s Dalit-OBC connect and to counter the likely SP-BSP alliance.

The BJP’s western Uttar Pradesh in-charge Vijay Bahadur Pathak indicated the exclusion of over 4 million people from the National Register of Citizens in Assam -- aimed at weeding out illegal immigrants -- would also be a part of the party’s strategy.

Shah declared in Kolkata on Saturday that the BJP would continue with its campaign against ‘ghuspaithiya’ (intruders) in reference to the NRC.

SP spokesman Abdul Hafiz Gandhi said the BJP will use communal and caste polarisation for the 2019 elections “to dupe people” again as the Uttar Pradesh government has failed. “The law and order has become miserable. Atrocities against Dalits are on the rise. Murders are happening in jails. Women and girls are not safe anymore.”

Congress leader Ajay Kumar Lallu echoed Gandhi and said the BJP stands exposed. “The party’s leadership has realised that BJP will not get votes in the name of development and jobs to youth. So, the party has obviously come out with the strategy to divide people on the caste lines. The BJP has no commitment to the development.” Lucknow-based Centre for Objective Research and Development’s Athar Siddiqui said the coalition of the opposition parties has unnerved the BJP. “It could weave Hindutva and patriotism into its political narrative to thwart caste build-up of SP and BSP.”

First Published: Aug 12, 2018 08:10 IST