Eyeing support of crucial backward castes in UP for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,the BJP has put its hope in none other than Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. And if the partys recent drive of collecting iron for Patels statue are any indication,it appears to have struck gold.
Held last week,the UP Lauh Sangrahan Sahyog Samiti of Sardar Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust attracted a crowd of mostly backward castes leaders,with a large presence of those from the Kurmi community for whom Patel is an iconic figure.
Not ready to put even one wrong foot,the party chose former state president Om Prakash Singh,a prominent Kurmi leader from eastern UP,as the committees convenor. Not only this,four in the eight-member committee belonged to backward castes.
When contacted,Singh said he took the responsibility because of his personal attachment with Patels ideology. With election nearing,everything will be looked upon with a motive. But,I believe Patel is respected for his nationalist beliefs by all communities and should not be linked to any particular community. We will approach all the communities,the drive (of collecting iron) does not intend to target any particular community, he said.
A committe member,preferring anonymity,said: As Patel has special importance for Kurmis,it is very likely they will support with this cause. And this will make us connect with the community.
The member admitted that the party is in touch with Kurmi communitys social organisations, among which it used to enjoy a significant hold but with its slow downfall in the state,Kurmis,and other backward castes,were weaned away by both Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.
BSP founder Kanshi Ram had worked to associate the Kurmi community with its Dalit base. Even the erstwhile BSP government had three ministers who belonged to Kurmi community.
Many of the ruling partys MPs and MLAs in Purvanchal and Bundelkhand also belong to Kurmi community. Recently,PWD minister Shivpal Yadav addressed a gathering of SP supporters in Mirzapur on the occasion of Patels birth anniversary in the presence of its Kurmi leaders. Even the Congress had tried to woo the community by inducting Beni Prasad Verma and presenting him prominently during the 2012 Assembly election.