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UTTAR PRADESH

Rajnath takes on SP, BSP but steers clear of minority, terror

Friday 6 April 2007, by MAJUMDAR*Ananda

NEW DELHI/ETAH, APRIL 5: Aiming to be a lead player and not just a balancing factor in UP politics in the post poll scenario, the BJP closed its campaigning for the first phase of the Assembly polls hoping to dent the Samajwadi Party in its own strongholds with the belief it could benefit from the anti-incumbency sentiment against the SP.

A day after SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav campaigned in Etah, considered an SP stronghold because of its large Yadav vote base, BJP president Rajnath Singh made a last minute effort to take advantage of the anti-SP factor by targeting Yadav in rural and semi-urban segments of Etah. On a day when the Allahabad High Court said the Muslims were not a minority, Singh made no mention of minority appeasement or the spread of terrorism to new areas, focusing instead on law and order, corruption, development issues like water, power, roads, sugarcane prices, and inflation. In so doing, he attacked both the SP and Mayawati’s BSP.

Singh’s speeches in the four Assembly constituencies he covered during the day, two each in the Agra and Etah, was about the failure of the SP to provide 24-hour power to farmers at Rs 2 per unit, inflated power bills, irregular water to the fields, a warning that Mayawati remained anti-upper caste despite her recent steps, and corruption cases against Mayawati and Yadav. Along with that was the BJP promise to provide farming loan at 6 per cent, and Rs 30,000 to the parents of every girl child born in a poor family, if it came to power.

The decision to not rake up minority issues beyond a point was based on the belief that the “wrong perception” that the BJP had deviated from its ideology had been corrected over the past year. Singh told The Indian Express that opportunities for the BJP had regularly come in the past year to highlight the involvement of ISI in terrorist acts and raise the demand for an “international watch” on it, bring up the issue of minority appeasement and troop withdrawal in Siachen and the need to put pressure on Pakistan to dismantle the terror infrastructure.

On Thursday, Singh drew the largest crowds in Etah and, ironically, it was here in the Yadav base that he held out the biggest hope of success for his party. That was an indication of the party’s efforts to break the SP in its own bases, even though the BJP has its task cut out in the first phase. Of the 62 seats that go to the polls on the weekend are some of the party’s weakest areas in the past, a result of poor organisation and selection of candidates. Not all of that may have been remedied by the party in the current polls and this was also evident during the party chief’s campaign tour on Thursday.

Despite the stress on development and law and order, the party has been doing its homework on the importance of caste and religion in the state politics. For instance, the attempt to attract the other-than-Yadav vote was reflected in the selection of around 150 backward candidates. Apart from the conscious harnessing of forces in the Yadav stronghold has been the BJP’s apprehension of pushing the Muslim vote towards the SP, perceiving that the best bet remained in keeping Muslims confused and divided over the issue of political allegiance.

Going by the last poll results, while the constituencies in the first phase comprised some of the weakest areas for the BJP, they were among the strongest for the SP. As he flew back to Delhi after close of campaigning on Thursday, the BJP chief promised those results would be reversed in the current polls.

See online : The Indian Express

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