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Casteism, communal appeal at core of strategy in UP polls

Lucknow: The BJP has developed its poll narratives around Hindutva and development in the battle for Uttar Pradesh and the Samajwadi Party on welfare schemes based on socialism, but the core of their poll strategies appears to be caste arithmetic and communal faultliness.

Be it the BJP, the SP or the BSP, a look at their list of candidates makes it clear that caste calculation and religious affiliation are the prime considerations in the selection of the nominees for the 2022 Uttar Pradesh elections.

The Congress under its general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is banking on the women voters to capture the power in the Hindi heartland.

Sticking to its promise of reserving 40 percent tickets to women, the grand old party is experimenting with greenhorns, like an aganwadi worker, the mother of the Unnao rape victim besides glamorous faces like Bikni girl’ Archana Gautam from Hasinapur in Meerut district, and actor-activist Sadar Jafar.

“No matter how much you talk about vikas (development), the victory in polls hinges on which caste and community is supporting you,” Pitardeen Shukla, an elderly homemaker in Amethi said.

Brajesh Shukla, a poll analyst said in Lucknow, “Nobody can deny ‘jati-dharma’ in rajneeti in UP but there is something else also which is guiding voters’ choice of a party in the polls.

He said a Muslim e-autorickshaw driver in Hathras told him that the government had provided him monetary assistance to get an artificial limb without asking for his religion and asserted that why he should not support it.

With year-long protests against the three agriculture laws having their echo in western Uttar Pradesh, farmers’ issues are being prominently used by the SP-RLD combine against the BJP in the region where 58 seats will go to vote in 11 districts in the first phase on February 10.

BJP leaders, besides making efforts to prove themselves being pro-farmer, are raking up the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots to allegedly create a wedge between the new friendship of Jats and Muslims, the core support groups of RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, respectively.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) are fighting the assembly polls in alliance.

BJP leaders have, during their campaigning, heaped praises on Raja Mahendra Prartap, a Jat icon who played a prominent role in the freedom struggle, to reach out to the electorally important community especially in the western UP.

Beneath the election cacophony is greater thrust to casteism and communalism, the time-tested poll weapons in the politically important Uttar Pradesh.

The Samajwadi Party has crafted a rainbow of alliance with caste-based regional parties to capitalise on the electorally dominant Other Backward Class (OBC).

Flight of influential leaders like O P Rajbhar, Swami Prasad Maurya and Dara Singh Chauhan from the BJP to the SP-led coalition indicated consolidation of the OBC support in favour of opposition grouping.

The BJP is going in the 2022 polls only with two allies — Apna Dal of Union minister Anupriya Patel and NISHAD party of Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Nishad, both OBC parties.

BSP chief Mayawati is seeking to revive its 2007 social engineering of “Dalits-Brahmins” combine.

Along with casteism, Hindutva remains a battle cry, particularly for the BJP.

Though the BJP leaders have been reaffirming “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas…”, like in the past no Muslim figured in the saffron party’s candidates list for the polls.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath stirred the political pot through his “80 percent versus 20 percent” assertion, which was seen in the political circles as a reference to the 80:20 ratio of the Hindu-Muslim population in the state.

The saffron party’s Hindutva plank is not woven around the Ayodhya issue this time, rather in attacking Akhilesh Yadav’s statement in favour of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and calling Pakistan only a “political enemy” of India and China the real enemy .

Almost all top BJP leaders have been attacking the SP chief for his “Jinnah and Pakistan” comments.

Along with lord Rama who has dominated UP electoral contour for over three decades in the name of the Ram Janamaboomi issue, lord Sri Krishna has made an entry in the current election.

Though some BJP leaders spoke in favour of it, it did not become a big poll issue.

But lord Krishna gained currency when Akhilesh Yadav asserted that the almighty comes to his dreams every day to tell him that he was becoming the chief minister.

Right from PM Narendra Modi to Union Home minister Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda, all mocked the SP supremo over his divine dreams.

The SP, which is aggressively positioning itself against the BJP, is also using “soft hindutva” to neutralise the religion-based appeal of the saffron party.

Amid intense tussle to outwit each other on the planks of casteism and communal appeal, the common man is crying that their livelihood issues like rods, electricity, water, besides those of employment, have been drowned.

Jang Bahadur Singh of Pandeypur Bazar in Gauriganj in Amethi district told PTI, “Will Jinnah and Pakistan give us food. We need better roads, employment and more civic amenities instead.”

Ragini Tiwari, the BSP candidate from Amethi assembly seat, said the BJP and the SP are trying to hoodwink voters in the name of Jinnah and Pakistan as well as kabristan’ (graveyard).

“Mayawati ji has always spoken about ‘sarvajan hitay’ (welfare of all) and had exemplified this in her government from 2007-12 in UP,” she said.

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