Updated: January 23, 2022 4:32:04 pm
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday chose Kairana for his first political programme in Uttar Pradesh after the announcement of the election dates, asking people as he went door-to-door whether they still felt “scared”.
He also met at least two Hindu families whose members allegedly fled the western UP town due to extortion by gangsters (mostly Muslims) following the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, and have since returned. The BJP had made the alleged “Kairana exodus” a political issue in the 2017 Assembly elections, and Shah and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have been talking about it in their poll speeches this time.
Chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ fill the air as Union Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah arrives in Kairana for door-to-door campaigning ahead of first phase of #UttarPradeshElections2022 https://t.co/CVxykiSovq pic.twitter.com/lzuaisNwGZ
— Decision 2022 😷 (@ieElections) January 22, 2022
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A report by The Indian Express had found discrepancies in the exodus claim.
In a chilly afternoon amidst intermittent rain, Shah landed in a helicopter and first headed to a Hindu colony near the helipad. He was accompanied by Mriganka Singh, the BJP candidate from Kairana who is the daughter of former party MLA Hukum Singh, and UP Sugarcane Minister Suresh Rana, the party nominee from nearby Thana Bhawan.
As supporters jostled, with few in masks or observing Covid norms, and shouted slogans of Bharat Mata ki Jai and Jai Shri Ram, Shah noted that he was returning to Kairana for the first time since 2014 and was happy at the “peace” that now prevailed.
He also handed out party flyers listing the state government’s achievements, while telling people “Lotus on 10th (February 10 is the first day of polling)” and claiming that the BJP will win 300 seats. It had won 307 last time. Asking people if they felt “secure”, he said the BJP was committed towards them.
Shah’s next halt was the Qila Gate area, where he met some families who claimed to have left Kairana in due to extortion threats, and returned since. This was a stone’s throw from the residence of SP Kairana candidate and sitting MLA Nahid Hasan, who was arrested under the Gangster Act last week. On Friday, Hasan’s sister Iqra Hasan filed her nomination as an Independent, to prepare for any eventuality of his candidature being cancelled on technical grounds.
Later, Shah said: “I met the Mittal family and all 11 of them have returned and resumed their business. The present government has made efforts to make people feel secure.”
After visiting a sweet shop whose owners allegedly left due to extortion, the Union minister said: “The most important benchmark for any area’s development is law and order. The government has delivered in that aspect. People told me that those forced to migrate have themselves migrated in Yogi’s regime. In times to come, Kairana will become more developed due to our efforts.”
Shah talked about the roads, airports and medical colleges built under the Adityanath government, and said the policies had been envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and implemented by the CM.
As Shah’s cavalcade moved on, locals said there is no rift among the communities in the area, except in political discourse. “The fact is that the two communities live in peace. There is no denying that many families faced threats from criminal elements. I myself bore the brunt, with some goondas breaking parts of my shop’s roof. But it would be unfair to say that it is a community issue because there is peace here in general,” said Vipin Jain, a trader.
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