LUCKNOW: Nearly 34 days after she quit as Uttarakhand governor in September, two years ahead of the scheduled closure of her five-year gubernatorial stint, Baby Rani Maurya, the dalit woman leader from Agra arrived in Lucknow with hoardings prominently showcasing her dalit subcaste: Jatav.
“Yes, I am a ‘dalit ki beti’ (daughter of a dalit),” she said soon after her arrival, while admitting that in the run up to the 2022 Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections, she would seek to rally the Jatavs – considered to be the mainstay of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and staunch backers of party chief Mayawati who too is a Jatav.
Maurya, whose father was a Congress councillor in Agra and who edged closer to the BJP after her marriage, arrived in Lucknow on Tuesday for a felicitation function organised by the party’s Scheduled Caste wing.
“With ‘Jatav’ prominently written in the backdrop, Maurya was presented with a memento of ‘Ram Darbar’ to symbolically represent RSS’s desire to unite Hindus,” a party leader who was present at the felicitation function at Lucknow’s Vishweshwaraiya Hall, explained.
During the function, Maurya invoked Bhimrao Ambedkar reminding the predominantly dalit audience of Ambedkar’s three main things. “He wanted the community to be educated, to stay united and to fight against evil practices and BJP is the only party treading the path shown by Ambedkar,” she said to applause.
The BJP had decided to get Maurya to hold rallies all over the state, with special focus on districts with sizeable dalit population, party leaders admitted.
So far, despite cutting into BSP’s dalit vote, the BJP had largely preferred to woo non-Jatav dalits but having found a woman dalit leader in Baby Rani, the party was now seeking to aggressively woo the Jatavs too, party leaders confirmed.
Of the nearly 21 per cent dalit vote bank in UP, Jatavs form a sizeable chunk, about 11 per cent and Maurya said she would try to win over the community.
Hoardings put up across the state projected her as a Jatav leader and Maurya, who is now BJP’s national vice president, said she didn’t find anything wrong with it.
“I was born into this caste. My family was and still is into leather and footwear work. For nearly three decades I have been with the BJP as a Jatav,” she said when asked if the focus on ‘Jatav’ was deliberate.
Asked if she was confident of delivering the Jatav vote to the BJP, Maurya said, while the extent of breach in Maya’s vote bank remained to be seen, the community’s poor would ultimately side with a party that assured them education, growth and prosperity.
“Can’t say much about the (shift of) cadre base vote (of BSP) but it is a fact that we would want them to (Jatavs) align with the BJP and for a good reason. After all, those who want good education for their children or employment will definitely go somewhere and we would surely want them over to our side on the basis of the good work that our governments have been doing,” she said.
“So far the party lacked a Jatav woman leader and obviously now, the party leadership feels that Baby Rani having loyally served the party through its ups and downs in the state, appears to be a perfect choice to take on Mayawati and her party,” a party leader said.
On her part, Baby refrained from making any direct attack on Mayawati even as the BJP’s SC cell chose to put up a hoarding prominently showcasing Baby’s face and her ‘Jatav’ caste close to Mayawati’s Mall Avenue residence.
There has been no reaction from the BSP camp so far over the BJP projecting its own Jatav dalit woman face in the run up to 2022 UP polls. Mayawati, however, had recently revealed the intent to play up ‘soft Hindutva’ ahead of the UP polls, stating that if elected to power, her government would continue with development projects started by the BJP in Hindu holy cities of Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi.
“This means that while the BJP is eyeing Maya’s base vote, the feisty BSP leader is looking to get even by playing up soft Hindutva,” said Irshad Ilmi, veteran political leader.
Maurya said in BJP, there was no discrimination on caste lines and her rise was proof. “The BJP has acknowledged my work over the years, from being Agra’s first woman mayor, to member of women’s commission, governor and now national vice president. This is enough to show that in BJP, there is no discrimination and merit is promoted,” she said.
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