POLITICS

At PM Modi’s Aligarh rally, BJP MLA canvasses for votes in the name of President Kovind’s caste

Hathras MLA Hari Shankar Mahor’s comments came minutes ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s speech from the same stage

Dhairya Maheshwari

Hari Shankar Mahor, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Hathras, on Sunday dragged in President Ram Nath Kovind into the party's election campaign, as he asked voters of the Koli community to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

"I can see a large presence of people from Koli community here. This government has made Ram Nath Kovind, who is from the Koli community, as the President of the country. A Koli has never been a President before," said Mahor, while addressing BJP's Vijay Sankalp Rally in Aligarh on Sunday. Mahor made his remarks in presence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and BJP candidates from the constituencies of Aligarh, Hathras and Bulandshahr.

The three crucial western Uttar Pradesh's constituencies go to vote during the second phase of the seven-round Lok Sabha polls on April 18.

Mahor's comments came minutes ahead of Prime Minister Modi's speech from the same stage. While Mahor solicited for votes on caste lines, Modi during his speech rejected the idea of casteist politics, as he took potshots at the alliance of Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)  and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

We are against the politics of caste that these parties are promoting, Modi said during his speech at the city's Naumaish (exhibition) grounds.

Those present at the rally say that it is next to impossible to win the election in Aligarh and the reserved constituencies of Hathras and Bulandshahr, without getting the caste arithmetic right, regardless of what Modi says.

Nobody can win from the three seats without the blessings of the Lodh Rajput community, which in turn see Kalyan Singh as their leader, said BJP workers at the rally.

I will vote for BJP just because of Modi. Bhola Singh (the sitting BJP MP from Bulandshahr who is re-running for election) has done nothing. There is a lot of anger against him, said BJP worker Ram Singh from Bulandshahr, who had travelled to Aligarh for the rally.

In fact, so unpopular are BJP's candidates and outgoing MPs from Aligarh (Satish Gautam) and Bulandhshar (Bhola Singh) that even BJP's local units' workers have been boycotting their campaigns. In one of the videos that has surfaced on social media, BJP workers can he heard sloganeering against Gautam in front of him, even as they are heard shouting slogans praising Modi.

The unpopularity of local BJP candidates, sans a Modi wave unlike in 2014, has made the contest on these two BJP seats a tantalisingly close one between the gathbandhan candidates and the BJP.

Apparently oblivious to the plight of farmers and ground level issues in the three constituencies, both PM Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath during their speeches invoked issues such as the Pulwama terror attack and relations with Pakistan to solicit votes ahead of April 18.

"Don't you want me to teach Pakistan a lesson," asked PM Modi during the rally.