In an attempt to reach out to Dalit voters ahead of the assembly elections, particularly those from Jatav community which forms a chunk of BSP chief Mayawati’s vote base, the ruling BJP has started projecting party national vice-president Baby Rani Maurya, a former Uttarakhand governor and Agra mayor, as its Dalit face in the state.
The BJP has been lining up functions to felicitate her, ensuring attendance of people from Scheduled Caste communities. For these functions, the party has also been highlighting Maurya’s Dalit identity, by adding “Jatav” to her name in hoardings and formal communications.
Efforts at nibbling at the BSP’s support base – the Jatavs have traditionally been supporters of Mayawati, one of their own – began to pick pace after Maurya’s elevation as party vice-president late last month.
On October 13, the Awadh region unit of the BJP’s Scheduled Caste Morcha held a function in Lucknow to honour Maurya when she visited the state capital for the first time since her elevation.
In her address at the event, Maurya said people from SC communities get maximum respect in the BJP. She gave her own example. The BJP made an ordinary party worker like her a mayor, then a governor and now the party’s national vice-president, she said.
She appealed to the gathering to support the BJP in achieving the target of 350 seats in the 2022 elections.
On Tuesday, the Scheduled Caste Morcha’s Paschim region unit will be holding a similar function on the campus of Chaudhary Charan Singh University in Meerut. According to a press release from the local unit, the programme is being organised to mobilise SC communities.
BJP state president Swatantradeo Singh, Rajya Sabha member Kanta Kardam and other senior leaders will attend the event during which Maurya will also interact with booth presidents.
“After the regional-level programmes, more such programmes will be organised at district level for Baby Rani Maurya ji. We are felicitating her because the party has elevated a person from the SC community as national office-bearer,” Hansraj Jatav, SC Morcha president of Paschim region, told The Indian Express.
BJP SC Morcha state president Ram Chandra Kanaujia said felicitation of Maurya has already been done in Awadh, Kanpur and Gorakhpur regions. After Meerut, similar functions will be held in Varanasi (Kashi region) on October 22 and in Agra (Braj region) on October 25. He said such programmes with Maurya will be held further up to the district level.
Kanaujia said the party national vice-president is from the SC community but often her Maurya surname is mistaken for an OBC. “She herself decided to write Jatav with her name,” he said, referring to the hoardings. “Baby Rani Maurya is our tall leader. Ahead of the 2022 polls, SC communities are looking at the BJP with hope and we need a leadership for them. She is a senior leader of the Jatav community.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Maurya said she is an “original” Jatav and she will work for her community.
“There is politics of caste everywhere. We also have to tell our caste to help our community. People prefer to speak to their own [caste] leaders. Intellectuals of Jatav community are contacting me and getting associated with the party,” she said.
On adding “Jatav” to her name, she said, “This is to connect with the community.”
Appointed Uttarakhand governor in August 2018, Maurya resigned after three years in office last month. A few days later, the BJP appointed her national vice-president.
Before becoming governor, she was an active BJP member and served as Agra mayor from 1995 to 2000. In 2007, she contested the assembly election from Etmadpur in Agra district but lost.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines