Sangh leaders, a goddess, and a sage: the politics of naming UP’s medical colleges

A look at who the colleges in the other eight districts are named after, and the political significance of choosing these names.

Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath greets PM Narendra Modi in Varanasi on Monday. (Photo: Anand Singh)

Eight out of nine new medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh, set up with an investment of Rs 2,319 crore and inaugurated recently by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, bear names clearly chosen with local caste and religious equations in mind. This attempt at social engineering comes ahead of next year’s Assembly elections, and two months after the government had decided to name a new university in Aligarh after the Jat King Mahendra Pratap Singh.

The medical college in Hardoi has not been named yet. A look at who the colleges in the other eight districts are named after, and the political significance of choosing these names.

Madhav Prasad Tripathi Medical College, Sidharthanagar

A veteran from the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Tripathi went on to become the first state president of the BJP in UP when the party was formed. He helped establish the party, especially in eastern Uttar Pradesh. He was an MLA from the late 1960s to the 1970s, and was elected the MP from Dumariyaganj in 1977.

The naming of the college after him comes with an eye on the Brahmin vote. The Prime Minister spoke at length about Tripathi’s contributions to eastern UP as a minister and the first BJP state president.

“Naming a medical college after him aims at sending two messages to the cadre. First, those who contributed to the party during hard times are not forgotten. The second, obvious message is for the Brahmins; he is still a respected Brahmin name but was uncontroversial; he was not a Bahubali face in the region, where Tripathis have traditionally enjoyed political dominance,” said a party leader from Gorakhpur region.

Reaching out to a cross-section of people

Sone Lal Patel Medical College, Pratapgarh

Patel was the founder of the Apna Dal, a party which banks on the Kurmi votes of eastern UP, especially Patels in and around Pratapgarh and Varanasi. Part of the ruling coalition at the Centre, the Apna Dal has tied up with the BJP for the 2022 polls as well. In the latest Cabinet reshuffle, the BJP gave a ministerial berth to Sone Lal Patel’s daughter, Anupriya Patel. The naming of the college is an outreach to the Kurmis, which come under the OBCs, in a large belt of eastern UP.

Virangana Avantibai Lodhi Medical College, Etah

This is named after a freedom fighter, and Queen of Ramgarh in Madhya Pradesh. In the region surrounding Etah, where Lodhi Rajputs are dominant, the BJP recently lost its popular Lodhi face, former CM Kalyan Singh, whose son Rajveer represents Etah in Lok Sabha. Besides aiming to woo Lodhi Rajputs, the move is an attempt to honour a woman warrior. Recently, the first three all-women Provincial Armed Constabulary wings were named after women warriors, including Avantibai Lodhi.

Jodha Singh and Dariyao Singh Medical College, Fatehpur

In a region marked by the leadership of Thakurs, especially zamindars, the college has been named after two Thakur warriors from here, who were sentenced to death for their role in the 1857 revolution.

Umanath singh medical college, jaunpur

In this Thakur-dominated region, the government has chosen the name of a former Jana Sangh and BJP and leader, a minister in Kalyan Singh’s UP government. Singh, who hailed from a prominent Thakur family, died of a heart attack during a public protest, and many in Jaunpur refer to him as “Amar Shaheed”. Several schools and colleges, and the district hospital are already named after him.

Maa Vindhyavasini Medical College, Mirzapur

This is named after Goddess Vindhyavasini, whose temple in Mirzapur is a revered pilgrimage site, one of the Shakti peeths across India. The region is also known as Vindhyachal. The naming comes at a time when Congress leaders are visiting temples during an ongoing yatra. No political campaign in this region begins without a visit to the pilgrimage site.

Devraha Baba Medical College, Deoria

Devraha Baba, popularly known as the Eternal Yogi, was a seer widely followed in eastern and western UP, and also in Bihar. Little is known about his early life, except that he lived initially in Deoria before moving to Vrindavan. His long list of political devotees included Congress leaders such as Rajiv Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Arjun Singh.

Maharishi Vishwamitra Medical College, Ghazipur

Originally a Kshatriya king, Maharishi Vishwamitra was not born a Brahmin but earned the title of Maharishi through meditation and devotion. Apart from his contribution to the Vedas, he is also known for his contribution to the Ramayana by giving the knowledge of Devastras and weaponry to Lord Ram and his brother Lakshman. Ghazipur has a presence of both Kshatriya as well as Yadavs, and the naming seeks to address both caste and religious sentiments in a region where the BJP has not been performing very well; it lost the Lok Sabha seat in 2019.

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