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Eye on caste votes in UP polls, BJP starts community meetings

At the BJP event Sunday, Adityanath spoke about his government's efforts for the economic empowerment of potters. The Chief Minister announced that 9 lakh diyas will be used for Diwali in Ayodhya and that his government will purchase them from potters in the area.

The BJP event was also addressed by party leaders from different backward classes, including state president Swatantradev Singh, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya and vice-chairman of the National Commission for Backward Classes Lokesh Kumar Prajapati.

With an eye on UP’s caste equations ahead of the assembly elections to be held in a few months, the ruling BJP Sunday held the first of a series of ‘Samajik Pratinidhi Sammelan’, or meetings for representatives of society, with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath addressing a gathering of the “Prajapati samaj”, an OBC segment associated with the state’s community of potters.

Party leaders told The Indian Express that the BJP plans to hold 27 such conventions across the state till October 31. These sammelans come at a time when the Opposition SP has been taking out yatras to connect with communities whille the BSP has held conventions aimed at the Brahmin community.

At the BJP event Sunday, Adityanath spoke about his government’s efforts for the economic empowerment of potters. The Chief Minister announced that 9 lakh diyas will be used for Diwali in Ayodhya and that his government will purchase them from potters in the area.

Pointing out that the Mati Kala Board was set up to help potters, Adityanath said: “Earlier, idols were being made in China. China is an atheist nation but it started making idols of Lakshmi-Ganesh to sell at high prices. The people of our Prajapati society used to sit without any work. Now, we are not getting idols from China, we are making them on our own.”

The BJP event was also addressed by party leaders from different backward classes, including state president Swatantradev Singh, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya and vice-chairman of the National Commission for Backward Classes Lokesh Kumar Prajapati.

Speaking to The Indian Express, the event in-charge and BJP state general secretary, Priyanka Singh Rawat, said: “These sammelans will be held to reach out to representatives of various communities. These programmes are not caste-centric.”

However, when contacted, BJP Scheduled Caste Morcha state president Ramchandra Kanaujiya said such sammelans will be held for seven SC groups from October 19 — Pasi, Kanaujiya, Valmiki, Kori, Katheria, Sonkar and Jatav. “These seven are the prominent castes among SCs. There are several other castes, too, and they will also be invited to these events,” Kanaujiya said.

BJP state spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said the party “takes all sections and classes along”. “In the samajik pratinidhi sammelans, which started today, the party will reach out to eminent and influential persons from different sections and classes, and honour them. The party will also hold dialogue with them on decisions taken by the state government for their welfare. The party will motivate them to support us and vote for us,” he said.

According to Tripathi, similar programmes were organised before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, too.

Party sources told The Indian Express that the stress will be on holding sammelans for OBCs and SCs as “they collectively constitute a majority of votes in UP, and regional parties have significance only because of them”.

In the State Cabinet expansion last month, seven new ministers were inducted, including one Brahmin, three OBCs, two SCs and one ST — one of them, Dharamveer Prajapati, attended the sammelan on Sunday.

In July, the Union Cabinet reshuffle saw the induction of three OBCs, three SCs and one Brahmin from UP. Incidentally, the Brahmin candidate, Union MoS for Home Ajay Mishra, is currently facing calls for his resignation following his son’s alleged role in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in which eight people were killed.

With elections around the corner, Adityanath’s speech also targeted the previous SP government, which he accused of giving “shelter to rioters” and “pushing the state into darkness at the time of festivals”.

Adityanath said that earlier, curfews were imposed at the time of festivals when local artisans made their earnings. “Curfew, riots…because riots were part of the nature of the previous government. They sheltered rioters in every way and encouraged them. The majority community was harassed by the riots, and faced false cases,” Adityanth said.

As a result, the Chief Minister said, idols were not sold and diyas were destroyed. According to Adityanath, not a single riot happened in UP in the past four-and-a-half years. “From the first day, a stern warning was given to the rioters: If you will do rioting, then your next seven generations will compensate for it. Now riots cannot happen in the state and festivals are being celebrated with joy in the state,” he said.

UP, incidentally, had witnessed widespread protests and violence during the anti-CAA agitation two years ago.

On Sunday, the Chief Minister also said that no communal disturbance happened in the state during Navratri and Vijayadashami when new idols were placed at 41,000 locations with over 32,000 of them immersed till Saturday evening.

Despite the coal crisis, he said, the UP government was purchasing electricity at the rate of Rs 22 per unit, as against Rs 7 per unit in a normal situation, and supplying all over the state “to prevent darkness in festivals”.

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