BJP president Amit Shah will address a gathering of Dalits and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) at a Buddhist event in Kanpur on Friday, three days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the poll-bound state for Dussehra.
Shah’s address will be part of the closing ceremony of the ‘Dhamma Chetna Yatra’, taken out by Buddhist monks, which was flagged off by Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Modi’s constituency Varanasi in April.
Kanpur BJP president Surendra Maithani said 25,000 people are expected to participate in the event. “The programme aims at reaching out to the Dalit community,” he added. Maithani, however, claimed the yatra is not related to the upcoming elections in the state.
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Led by 87-year-old Viriyo, leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Bhikkhu Mahasangh, the Dhamma Chetna Yatra was earlier scheduled to conclude in Lucknow, with Modi addressing the gathering at the closing ceremony. However, it was later decided that Shah would do so instead, while the venue was changed to Kanpur.
“The reason appeared to be that the PM had already visited Lucknow on the occasion of Dussehra on October 11. He is also scheduled to visit Mahoba on October 24 for a programme and again Lucknow on December 24,” said a senior BJP leader.
To attract Dalits in huge numbers, BJP leaders in Kanpur have been visiting slum pockets for the past one week, urging them to attend Shah’s public meeting.
A BJP leader said that there are 543 slums in the district which are dominated by Dalits. “Party will provide buses outside each slum to take Dalits to the rally ground and later drop them back,” said another.
BJP leaders have also distributed pamphlets in these slums containing details of welfare schemes being run by the Centre for the poor and deprived sections of society.
These pamphlets, which carry photographs of the Prime Minister with Bhimrao Ambedkar, also carry information about ‘Panchtirth’, five places the NDA government has said it will develop in honour of Ambedkar.
The BJP is also trying to get OBCs to attend the meeting, a task party leaders from districts known as strongholds of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) have been entrusted with. Sources said that party units of Etawah, Kannauj, Fatehpur, Farrukhabad and Auraiya districts have been directed to persuade OBCs to attend the meeting.
At the ceremony, the party will also felicitate 110 ‘Bhante’ (Buddhist monks). After the programme, Shah will meet state leaders in Lucknow in the presence of the party’s state in-charge Om Mathur regarding upcoming programmes in view of the assembly elections.
In July, the party had cancelled Shah’s visit to Agra for the Dhamma Chetna Yatra in the wake of Dalit protests against the BJP in some districts.