Ahead of next year’s Assembly elections in Uttarakhand, BJP MP Anil Baluni has urged people living outside the state to register their votes in their ancestral villages.
The BJP national media head and chief spokesperson has been running a campaign since 2018 to revive the local festival of ‘Igas’ or ‘Budh Diwali’ and exhorting people to celebrate it in their native villages. As part of the campaign, he also launched an initiative called ‘Apna Vote, Apne Gaon’ (cast your vote in your own village), so that people who have migrated from remote villages will return and vote during elections.
Noting that migration has become a “serious problem” in remote villages, he said, “The campaign to revive this ‘Lok Parv’ was launched to ensure that villages along China and Nepal don’t get deserted. Under this campaign, I have also been requesting people to register their votes in their native villages so that these places stay connected.”
Baluni said the broader idea behind his mission to revive Uttarakhand’s ‘Lok Parv’ is to connect people who migrated from the state to their roots and trigger reverse migration.
“Main focus of this campaign is remote villages and far-flung places in Uttarakhand affected by migration. So that people will travel at least once or twice in a year to these remote villages to celebrate this festival and cast their votes which will also usher economic activities in these border areas and wouldn’t let these villages important for national security get deserted,” he said.
With his efforts from the last three years, he said that now this festival acts as a tool to address the migration crisis.
Delighted over the progress of his campaign, he said that this year even the people living in the plains in the state will be celebrating the festival.
“Igas/Budh Diwali has now become an identity of Uttarakhand, same as Garba is of Gujarat and Chhath Puja of Bihar,” he said.
The folklore behind ‘Igas or Budh Diwali’ is that the news of Lord Ram’s arrival in Ayodhya after completing 14 years of ‘vanvas’ reached the remote hills 11 days later. Therefore, the festival is celebrated 11 days after Diwali with the same fervour and gaiety.
The celebrations include distributing sweets and making traditional dishes. In Garhwal, people celebrate it by playing ‘bhailo’, a traditional form of fireworks, while in Kumaon, people worship cows and light ‘diyas’.
— With PTI inputs