In battle for UP, Modi and Opposition lock horns on Ambedkar, Lohia
On his first visit to Ayodhya district since becoming Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on Wednesday addressed a rally where he avoided mentioning the controversial Ram Temple issue and stayed away from the disputed site where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has for long promised to build a grand temple.
The site is where the Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque, stood until it was demolished 28 years ago by Hindu kar sevaks (volunteers) who believe it marks the birthplace of the god Ram .
At the rally in Gosaiganj, which is 20 km from the temple town, Modi invoked Dalit icon Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar and his contemporary socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia to attack the Samajwadi Party-bahujan Samaj Party (SP-BSP) alliance in Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile, BSP supremo Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav held a joint rally in Barabanki district’s Ram Snehi Ghat — around 70 km from the temple town. The two, along with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), have formed an alliance in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls which end on May 19.
Gosaiganj falls in the parliamentary constituency of Ambedkarnagar, which will go to the polls on May 12, along with 13 other Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. The ghat in Barabanki district falls under the Faizabad parliamentary constituency, which will vote on May 6. Faizabad was recently renamed Ayodhya by the state government.
Yadav thanked Mayawati for reviving an alliance whose foundations were laid by Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar and socialist politician Ram Manohar Lohia, and encouraged by BSP founder Kanshi Ram and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Modi attacked both political parties and said, “Mayawati (BSP chief) has misused Babasaheb’s name but never followed his ideals. The Samajwadi Party also uses Lohia’s name but the law and order situation worsened in the state during the SP rule.”
Mayawati said the BJP did not like it when with the support of BSP, VP Singh, the PM in 1990, implemented the Mandal Commission report and awarded Bharat Ratna to Ambedkar.
Modi attacked the Congress for not doing enough for labourers. “For the Congress, 40 crore workers have been just a vote bank. Only the family (Gandhi family) has benefited,” he said.
Claiming that his government had effectively tackled terrorism, Modi said, “Recently, there was a terrorist attack n Sri Lanka. Before 2014, such attacks were common in India.” Serial blasts tore through Colombo on on April 21, which left over 250 dead.
Blaming Pakistan as the source of terror, Modi said, “They (Pakistan) want a weak government in India and the SP-BSP Mahagathbandhan is soft on terrorism,” he said.
BSP chief Mayawati, however, accused the BJP of using the deaths of Indian jawans for election purposes. “The borders of the country are not totally secure under the BJP government as a result of which terror attacks are taking place and several jawans are being martyred. It is most unfortunate that they are anyhow using this for election purposes,” she said.
At a rally in Barabanki a day earlier, Modi had referred to the alliance as ‘Maha banawati’ [grand fake alliance].
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls the SP-RLD-BSP alliance as ‘mahamilawati gathbandhan’ (fake alliance) whereas the NDA itself has tied up with 38 parties. What will he have to say to that?” Yadav asked the crowds gathered at the BSP-SP rally.
Yadav said the November 2016 note ban and the July 2017 implementation of the Goods and Services Tax had dealt a body blow not only to the country’s economy but also to small traders and businessmen. “The so-called Digital India, Skill India, Make in India programmes never got off the ground and a large number of industries have shut down or are on the verge of closure,” he said.
Mayawati said both Congress and BJP misused government institutions like the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax department and the Election Commission to influence elecon tions. “Don’t get lured by the false promises being made by the BJP and the Congress. The latter has promised that it would give ₹6,000 allowance every month to the unemployed and the poor. If we come to power we will give jobs and implement reservation in private sector also,” she said.
RAHUL IN BARABANKI
At a rally in Ramnagar, Barabanki Congress president Rahul Gandhi said he had managed to bust the myth around PM Modi’s ‘Mr Clean’ image. “Modi can’t pressurise me as I have no history,” Gandhi said, canvassing for party veteran PL Punia’s son Tanuj, who is contesting from the Barabanki. “Modi speaks of surgical strikes, but in the truest sense the Congress’s Nyay scheme is the real surgical strike against poverty,” he said, referring to the promised income guarantee scheme for the bottom 20% of India’s poor.