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Why Mayawati's BSP, and not SP, is BJP's main adversary in UP polls

Since the last BJP government led by Rajnath Singh was voted out at the beginning of the new millennium, UP has seen a bipolar polity with SP and BSP alternatively coming first and second.

Updated: Jun 07, 2016, 05.22 AM IST
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Since the last BJP government led by Rajnath Singh was voted out at the beginning of the new millennium, UP has seen a bipolar polity with SP and BSP alternatively coming first and second.
Since the last BJP government led by Rajnath Singh was voted out at the beginning of the new millennium, UP has seen a bipolar polity with SP and BSP alternatively coming first and second.
NEW DELHI: BJP may have declared Samajwadi Party as its main adversary in the forthcoming assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh but it is engaged in serious efforts — including appropriation of Dalit icons and using Buddhist saints to wean away the Scheduled Caste from BSP — to beat the serious challenge posed by Mayawati whose party is reportedly gaining ground in the state.

Since the last BJP government led by Rajnath Singh was voted out at the beginning of the new millennium, UP has seen a bipolar polity with SP and BSP alternatively coming first and second. This makes BSP the natural benefactor of the anti-incumbency building against the Akhilesh Yadav government. However, BJP is hopeful of emerging as a credible alternative to BSP by chipping away some Dalit votes along with sizable chunks of votes from Brahmins, Baniyas and Extremely Backward Castes.

The Dhamma Chetna Yatra — comprising 75 Buddhist monks led by 87-year-old Dr Dhamma Viriyo, former Rajya Sabha member and head of All India Bikkhu Sangh — that was flagged off on April 24 at Sarnath completed its first phase on June 5.

BJP sources said 19 districts around Varanasi and Gorakhpur were covered by the monks. The PMO is said to be monitoring the progress and impact of the yatra with BJP office. The BJP stamp on the yatra is clearly visible. The SUVs carrying these monks have photos of PM Narendra Modi at various programmes to commemorate Dalit icon BR Ambedkar.

BJP MPs have been supporting the yatra. Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath had welcomed them in his constituency while BJP general secretary Arun Singh will meet Viriyo in Bahraich on June 10 when the yatra begins its second phase.

“The monks are targeting Mayawati by telling people she has moved away from the cause of Dalits, as espoused by Kanshi Ram and Ambedkar,” a senior BJP leader said. Viriyo, though a controversial saint, who has even been jailed once for misusing funds, claims to have the support of Buddhist followers. He had lit the pyre of Kanshi Ram, party sources said.

“The Buddhist monks are visiting Buddha Vihars — there are around 40 of them in almost every district in UP — and reaching out to Dalits who had converted to Buddhism,” the BJP leader said. However, the Jatav votes have always stayed loyal to Mayawati, leaving BJP with hope of getting only other Dalits to its side.

Dalits, including Jatavs, constitute around 23% of the electorate in UP. The culmination of this yatra — the second phase will end on August 14 and cover western UP while the third phase will be in Bundelkhand and Central UP — at Lucknow on October 14 is also likely to be a grand affair.

Modi is set to address a mammoth rally, chosen as it mark the anniversary of Ambedkar embracing Buddhism in 1956.

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