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Lok Sabha elections 2019: ‘Don’t drag me into caste politics’: PM Modi to UP oppn

In his address at an election rally in Hardoi in Uttar Pradesh, PM Modi claimed that the BSP supremo Mayawati had betrayed her own ideology by allying with the “people who were opposed” to the Dalit ideologue BR Ambedkar.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 28, 2019 08:08 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kanpur/Sitapur
PM Modi,PM Modi in UP,PM Modi in Hardoi
Prime minister Narendra Modi(Bloomberg photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took on Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati on Saturday for her description of him as a “fake” Other Backward Class (OBC) leader and asked her party and its partner Samajwadi Party (SP) not to drag him into their caste politics, continuing a back-and-forth that has gone on for more than a week.

Mayawati fired off a riposte hours later and accused the Modi government of using the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to hound her over alleged irregularities in the sale of state-run sugar mills in 2010-11, when she was chief minister.

“Behenji is distributing my caste certificate; now that she has started it, I must tell you that I come from the most backward caste in Gujarat,” Modi said at an election rally in Kannauj on Saturday. Behenji, which means sister, is how Mayawati is known in UP.

“I was not aware of my caste till Behenji, Akhilesh Yadav and Congress began mentioning it. I am grateful to them, yet I am not in caste politics. I ask them to not drag me into caste politics,” Modi said. “I am a backward but I want to take the country forward; my caste gets a mention when these people realise they are losing the election.”

At an election rally in Mainpuri on April 19, Maywati called SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh’s father, a “real backward class leader,” unlike Modi, whom she described as a fake one. And on April 21, in a statement, Mayawati questioned Modi’s OBC credentials and said he got his community included in Gujarat’s list of OBCs after he became chief minister of the state.

On Thursday, at rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Banda, Modi accused the SP and the BSP of engaging in caste politics and said they were “busy distributing my caste certificate”. On Friday, Mayawati struck back, saying Modi doesn’t belong to a backward class by birth. “When his government was formed in Gujarat, he got his caste included in the backward class list,” she said, repeating her claim. “He just wants to votes of people from the backward classes; he is a fake,” she added.

BSP and SP are counting on the support of Dalits and OBCs in Uttar Pradesh to dent the BJP’s strength in the Lok Sabha in the ongoing elections.OBCs account for 41.1% of the voters in Uttar Pradesh and Dalits, the main support base of the BSP, 20.7%. On paper, in terms of arithmetic, the alliance is at least as strong as the BJP.

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In the 2014 general election, the BJP on its own won 71 of the 80 members that Uttar Pradesh sends to the Lok Sabha, more than any other state in India. The SP won five and BSP none, but they were not in an alliance then.

Playing up the traditional fault lines between the Yadavs (OBC) and Jatavs (scheduled caste, or Dalit) in the potato belt of Uttar Pradesh, Modi said, “Behenji is gleefully seeking votes for those who never respected Baba Saheb (BR Ambedkar, a Dalit icon), attacked the Dalits and forcibly occupied their land and houses. It clearly shows that power and the chair matter most to Behenji.”

He claimed that Mayawati’s BSP government, while in power, ”named the medical college in Tirva after Ambedkar but the SP government changed it.”

The BSP chief on Thursday sought votes for Dimple Yadav, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav’s wife, from the same ground in Kannauj, considered an SP stronghold. Dimple Yadav is seeking a third term from the seat. The BJP has fielded Subrat Pathak, and hopes to do better than it has done in the past in the constituency, despite the SP candidate enjoying the BSP’s support this time.

In Sitapur, Modi termed the SP-BSP-Rashtriya Lok Dal grand alliance a “mahamilawat ka counter” they had opened when locks were placed on their old shops. Mahamilawat literally translates as “great adulteration.” Sitapur goes to the polls on May 6.

Starting his speech by congratulating class X and class XII students of the UP Board examinations, results of which came out around 90 minutes before his speech, Modi said: “I wish them great success in the future. Those students who are left behind by a few marks should start working right away. I say this as one of their family members.”

Hours later, Mayawati alleged again that Modi had his caste status converted into OBC and tore into Modi for “mischievously” suggesting that she and Akhilesh had described him as “neech” (lowly).

“He claims I had described him as neech. Far from it, I had actually described him as originally hailing from a forward caste and so it appears that in his own eyes, he is taking the upper caste to be neech,” Mayawati said.

Also read: BJP’s promises only ‘hawa hawai’, says Mayawati in fresh attack on PM Modi

“Fact is Modi and his party have always treated the dalits, tribals and OBCs as neech,” she said, accusing him of raking up the issue of his caste to reap political gains, which she said showed the BJP’s desperation at losing to the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in the first three phases of the general election in UP. She said the trend would hold good in the remainder of the election.

Mayawati questioned the timing of the CBI opening a probe in the sugar mills’ sale that had, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, caused a loss of ₹1,179 crore to the state exchequer.

“I am not against the probe per se, but surely the manner in which CBI has opened the case in the middle of elections is unprecedented. Such misuse of CBI or other government agencies during polls is unprecedented,” she told journalists in Lucknow on Saturday night.

The BJP dismissed Mayawati’s allegation. “These appear to be senseless chatter of a politician who knows which way the wind is blowing in the elections. If she has done no wrong, she needn’t fear,” BJP leader Chandramohan said.

First Published: Apr 27, 2019 20:11 IST