Congress’ ‘Nadi Adhikar Yatra’ could be a game changer in UP
Nishads, who are scattered along areas adjacent to the Yamuna and Ganga across Uttar Pradesh, have a sizable presence in 152 of the 403 Assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh
As part of the ‘Nadi Adhikar Yatra’ initiated by the Congress to highlight issues being faced by the Nishad (fishermen) community in UP, the party workers are distributing pamphlets raising nine demands to the government to alleviate their suffering even as they walk 25 to 30 km along the Ganga river and hold 8-10 small sabhas every day in Nishad dominated villages. They halt for the night at temples built by the community in villages located in the Gangetic plain.
On the fifth day of the Yatra when hundreds of Congress activists led by UP Congress president Ajay Kumar Lallu and organization secretary Anil Yadav were nearing Meja Tehsil in Allahabad, National Herald reached out to the party leaders for their views and experience.
Anil Yadav said that the Yatra aimed to give a voice to those who are voiceless, adding that while capturing power is important in politics, empowering backward communities was most important.
Yadav, who has been at the forefront of several agitations launched by the Congress in Uttar Pradesh in the recent past, said, “I felt there is a deep resentment in the community against the Samajwadi Party and the BJP. Nishads are dependent on Ganga for their livelihood. They live on the banks of the river in miserable conditions. They do not even have access to electricity, roads, health centers and schools for their children”.
“Moreover, they have to pay a ‘goonda tax’ to the upper caste communities or the sand mafia to be able to use resources found at and generated by the river. That is why our aim is to awaken them through this Yatra,” Yadav, who is considered as one of the important figures of Priyanka Gandhi’s core team in the state, said.
“It has not been decided yet, but Priyanka Gandhi too will join the Yatra at some point of time,” Yadav said.
On March 1, when the Yatra was flagged off, Priyanka Gandhi was campaigning in Assam for the upcoming assembly polls.
Unlike other OBC communities like Yadav and Patels who benefitted from the reservation for them, the Nishads, who form almost 5 per cent of the total population in Uttar Pradesh, remained poor and backward – both in terms of political representation and economic condition.
The SP patriarch and former UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav was the first to acknowledge the political importance of the community.
“He tapped the community through Phoolan Devi, making them a strong vote bank for the SP, but after her death, they drifted away and moved towards the BJP,” said a UP watcher.
It is worth mentioning here that Sanjay Nishad, who founded Nishad Party in 2016, had joined the NDA in 2019.
“Nishads feel that they have been cheated by the SP and the BJP. Traditionally, they have had a very antagonistic relationship with the BSP. So, there is a vast space for Congress,” said Anil Yadav.
Interestingly, the Nishad community had voted for the Congress till the rise of Mandal politics. A section of them still votes for the party, said a Congress activist.
Nishads, who are scattered along areas adjacent to the Yamuna and Ganga across Uttar Pradesh, have a sizable presence in 152 of the 403 Assembly constituencies in the state.
The ‘Nadi Adhikar Yatra’, which will culminate in Ballia district on February 21, is seen by many as a game changer in favour of the Congress in UP politics.
“Congress leaders are walking in dirt for the benefit of an oppressed community…The party has also formed effective strategies to reach out to different caste groups,” said a UP watcher.
The announcement of the Yatra by the Congress has rattled the BJP as well as the SP and BSP, said the UP watcher, adding, “If Nishads decide to change their voting preference, it will be hugely advantageous for the Congress when UP polls are held in 2022.”
Published: 05 Mar 2021, 1:48 PM