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PM Modi visits Uttar Pradesh as BJP starts preparing for 2019 elections

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Sant Kabir Nagar district, reaching out to the followers of the poet-saint.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2018 11:01 IST
HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times, New Delhi and Lucknow
Narendra Modi,Uttar Pradesh elections,Yogi Adityanath
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at an event organised by Bharatiya Janata Party in Mumbai on Tuesday. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Sant Kabir Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday to mark the 500th death anniversary of Kabir in what is being seen as an attempt to reach out to the followers of the 15th-century poet-saint and launch the BJP’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections next year.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Modi will offer a “chadar” at the “mazaar” of Kabir and also lay the foundation stone of an academy, “which will highlight the great saint’s teachings and thought”, in the name of the saint whose followers include the Dalits and other backward Hindus as well as Muslims.

Dalits account for 21.2% and Muslims 19.2% of Uttar Pradesh’s population.

Modi will also address a rally in the small town, which is dominated by weavers.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is looking to consolidate its support base in the northern state, where it has seen a series of defeats at the hands of a united opposition.

The candidate of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), a small regional Jat-dominated party centred in western Uttar Pradesh, won the Kairana Lok Sabha seat in May, with the support of the Congress, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

The Kairana victory came two months after the BJP lost the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls to the SP, which was backed by BSP.

The saffron party was determined to retain Kairana to send a message that its defeat in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha byelections in March was an aberration. The small town was in the news over the reported 2016 exodus of Hindu families.

The opposition interpreted the verdict as a defeat of the BJP’s “communalism” and the revival of the Jat-Muslim political coalition which had broken down after the riots. The BJP, however, argued that bypolls were fought primarily on local issues.

Weaver zone

The Prime Minister’s visit to Sant Kabir Nagar district, falling in the “weavers zone” comprising Ambedkar Nagar, Basti, Gorakhpur, Mau, Azamgarh, Siddharthnagar and Bhadohi, has also rekindled hope among the weavers.

A majority of the weavers settled in Sant Kabir Nagar and adjoining districts are considered staunch supporters of the Peace Party.

The community is worried about the fall in the sale, erratic power supply and inability to change the rickety handlooms they work on, especially when there is tough competition from the synthetic textile supplied from China, Ansari said.

Fifty-year-old Ghyasuddin Ansari, from Bairampur village 25km north of Maghar, has been trying to convince the members of his weaver community to attend Modi’s public meeting.

“Though majority of the weavers are supporters of Peace Party, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), I have urged the members of my community to attend the rally in strength so that a message goes to the prime minister that they will support him in the 2019 Lok Sabha election if his government works for their welfare,” Ansari said.

Ghyasuddin is not alone as a majority of the weavers settled in Sant Kabir Nagar are maintaining a close watch on the visit.

“Large numbers of youths have migrated to Maharashtra and Delhi in search of petty jobs. Financial aid, marketing of products, regular power supply and modern power looms will definitely revive the textile sector here,” said Mohammad Sadatullah, headman of Ashtrabad village.

The saffron party’s member of Parliament from Sant Kabir Nagar Sharad Tripathi said the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state were committed to the welfare of the weaver community.

“The government has already announced the start of a closed spinning mill, establishment of weavers cluster, construction of 25 huts for the sale of the handicraft products,” he said.

The state cabinet on June 5 approved a prize for the weavers - Sant Kabir State Handloom Prize - to boost handloom and rural textile industry. A host of other measures include PM Handloom Weavers Mudra Programme to give loans to the weavers at a low-interest rate and UP handloom, silk powerloom, textile and garment policy to give grant and subsidy in stamp duty to the weaver.

Under the new policy, the subsidy given to the weavers by the khadi and rural industry department will be transferred directly into their account, said a senior BJP leader.

This plan of the BJP to make inroads in the weavers’ zone has made the opposition parties sit up and take note.

Hectic parleys are on among the opposition parties – the SP, BSP, RLD and the Peace Party - to form an alliance against the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year. They plan to hold joint rallies in the area before the Lok Sabha election.

President of Peace Party Dr Mohammad Ayub said the BJP would be not able to misguide the weaver community.

“They are aware of the fact that Peace Party has been working for their development,” he said while speaking to the Hindustan Times.

Ayub, who won from Khalilabad seat in 2012 assembly election, said the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014 but did little for the upliftment of the weavers.

“Now when the Lok Sabha elections are here, the Prime Minister is visiting them for votes. The Peace Party will alert the weavers against this design of the BJP,” he said.

Spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party Rajendra Chaudhary said the area around Maghar had been the stronghold of the SP.

“The weavers have been core support base of the SP since the launch of the socialist movement in the area in the early seventies. Members of the community are aware of why the PM is visiting the area. They know the BJP government is not bothered about their welfare,” he said.

A senior BSP leader said party chief Mayawati had directed the party leaders to organise cadre camps and “bhaichara” (brotherhood) meetings to create awareness among the weavers about the BJP’s intentions.

Newly-appointed BSP state unit president RS Kushwaha is on a whirlwind visit to the weaver-dominated districts in east Uttar Pradesh. He has addressed meetings of the party workers in Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Gorakhpur, Basti, Mau and Kushinagar districts.

First Published: Jun 28, 2018 10:59 IST