Modi plays secular, caste card in backward east UP

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Time for Hindus and Muslims to stand together, he says

As the battle for eastern UP intensified, the BJP PM candidate, Narendra Modi who was targeted for speaking from the stage with the backdrop of Ram Janmabhoomi on Tuesday, played the secular and caste cards.

Speaking at Dumariyagunj in eastern UP, he said “time has come for Hindus and Muslims to stand together and work for development.” He attacked the Congress for “neglecting the low caste” and reminded his audience amidst thunderous applause-“Chai hi to bechi hain, desh to nahi becha (I have sold tea-not the country).”

In the caste-dominated eastern politics of eastern UP, Modi pulled out the caste card, by talking about “how the low caste people have sacrificed to give rich and affluent a life of luxury.” Reminding the voters that he too belonged to the “low caste” and taking a dig at Priyanka Gandh for accusing him of playing “low level politics,” Modi: “I may belong to the low caste, but I do not play low-level politics.”

BJP is aware that it might not be able to break into the caste-dominated politics of eastern UP by adhering to the development plank. A detailed saffron analysis revealed that the BJP was lagging far behind in UP’s caste ridden politics.

While BJP has only seven per cent support of the Yadavs, SP has over 20 per cent, Congress-10 and BSP only six. As for the Kurmis, Congress leads with 25 per cent, BJP-24, BSP-9 and SP over 15 per cent. Among the Lodhs (Kalyan Singh’s community), BSP-SP have over 30 per cent in their kitty, BJP- 15 and Congress nearly 20 per cent.

Among the OBCs Bharatiya Janata Party has nearly 30 per cent, SP over 25, BSP nearly 20 and Congress 17 per cent. As for Jatavs, BSP controls over 80 per cent of the community, while BJP-Congress and SP around four cent. With regard to other dalits, BSP has nearly 65 per cent, SP over nine, Congress nearly 15 and BJP seven per cent.

Aware that the party has to break into the this tough terrain of caste politics, “Modiji has no option but to blend caste with politics,” a BJP functionary said. In Varanasi, the Modi impact can be felt in the areas, which were once beyond BJP’s grasp. Bari Maliyan Harijan Basti, a slum dominated by the doms (undertakers) is in the heart of Varanasi.

Sitting outside his one-room house, Suresh Goga, who apparently is the main voice in the Harijan basti with nearly 1,000 doms, was chewing paan. The doms incidentally had traditionally been a Congress vote bank. “This time we are for Modi,” he said and then showed a lotus symbol on his left palm. “We have been voting for Congress, but now we want to give Modi a chance at the Centre,” he said.

For him, “if Modi comes, maybe our condition will improve, we will get our dues, get jobs,” Goga said and then called a woman in a torn, soiled saree passing by. The woman’s son-in-law, who used to clean drains (safai karmachari) had fallen into one and died on April 5 while “on duty.”

The woman’s husband, Babulal wearing a soiled torn shirt alleged that “despite our repeated attempt to get a job for my daughter and some compensation nothing happened.” Goga intervened saying, “Kejriwal came and assured, he would do something if he comes to power.” Then he laughed, “but Kejriwal is not coming to power, Modi is.”

Not all harijans toe Goga’s line. In the Sadar Harijan Basti, opinions are strongly divided. Here the votes are getting split between the BJP, SP and Congress. Anand Chaurasia, a paan seller was sitting wearing an SP cap. “So you will vote for SP as also the candidate Kailash Prasad Chaurasia is from your community,” this correspondent asked. “Enough of caste politics. This time I will vote for development. I will vote for Modi,” he asserted.

Standing behind him ,an old man, a tea seller, Suraj Prasad immediately snapped back- “Why Modi, it’s the Congress, which has helped us in our time of need.” He said- “this boy has become a BJP convert, don’t listen to him.” By then an aged Muslim, Mainuddin called “chacha (uncle)” joined the conversation and said, “ we should vote for Kejriwal.” For him, “he is honest, hardworking and will not allow corruption if he is sent to Parliament.”


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