IN AN attempt to reach out to Dalit voters ahead of the Assembly polls, particularly those from Jatav community which forms a chunk of BSP chief Mayawati’s vote base, the ruling BJP has started projecting party national vice-president Baby Rani Maurya, a former Uttarakhand governor and Agra mayor, as its Dalit face in the state.
The BJP has been lining up functions to felicitate her, ensuring attendance of people from Scheduled Caste communities. It has also been highlighting Maurya’s Dalit identity, by adding “Jatav” to her name in hoardings and formal communications.
Efforts at nibbling at the BSP’s support base – the Jatavs have traditionally been supporters of Mayawati, who is one of their own – picked pace after Maurya’s elevation as party national vice-president late last month.
On October 13, the Awadh region unit of BJP’s SC Morcha held a function in Lucknow to honour Maurya when she visited the state capital for the first time since her elevation. In her address, Maurya said people from SC communities get maximum respect in the BJP. She gave her own example. The party made an ordinary party worker like her a mayor, then a governor and now the national vice-president, she said. She appealed to the gathering to support the BJP in achieving the target of 350 seats in the 2022 elections.
The Jatav factor
SCHEDULED Castes constitute more than 23 per cent of UP’s population, and nearly half of them are from sub-caste Jatav. They are in decisive positions in more than 50 assembly constituencies in western UP and Braj region around Agra. So far, they have been firmly behind BSP chief Mayawati, largely because other parties have not been able to groom a leader from the community against her. This is the first time the BJP has reached out to the Jatavs with Baby Rani Maurya as the face.
On Tuesday, the SC Morcha’s Paschim region unit will hold a similar function in Meerut. According to a press release, it is being organised to mobilise SC communities. BJP state chief Swatantradeo Singh and other senior leaders will attend the event during which Maurya will interact with booth presidents.
“After regional-level programmes, more programmes will be organised at district level for Maurya ji. We are felicitating her because the party has elevated a person from the SC community as national office-bearer,” said Hansraj Jatav, SC Morcha president of Paschim region.
BJP SC Morcha state president Ram Chandra Kanaujia said felicitation of Maurya has already been done in Awadh, Kanpur and Gorakhpur regions. After Meerut, similar functions will be held in Varanasi on October 22 and in Agra on October 25.
Kanaujia said the party national vice-president is from Jatav community but often her Maurya surname is mistaken for an OBC. “She herself decided to write Jatav with her name,” he said, referring to the hoardings. “Ahead of the polls, SC communities are looking at the BJP with hope and we need a leadership for them. She is a senior leader of Jatav community.”
Maurya told The Indian Express that she is an “original” Jatav and she will work for her community.
“There is politics of caste everywhere. We have to tell our caste in order to help our community. People prefer to speak to their own [caste] leaders. Intellectuals of Jatav community are contacting me and getting associated with the party,” she said. On adding “Jatav” to her name, she said, “This is to connect with the community.”