A strong pro-poor pitch, a tribute to late Jan Sangh leader Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and his concept of ‘Antyodaya’ combined with lauding Ram Manohar Lohia as being one of the greatest political thinkers, were the other takeaways from his speech that marked the completion of one year of his government.Narendra Modi speaks in Mathura. PTINarendra Modi speaks in Mathura. PTIModi chose Mathura as it is the birthplace of Jan Sangh founder Deen Dayal Upadhyaya who coined the term ‘Antyodaya’. It is located in the centre of the region known as Braj, a BJP stronghold in Uttar Pradesh. And UP is the next big challenge before Modi and the BJP.Modi raised a strong pro-poor pitch in his address where he named Gandhi, Lohia and Upadhyaya to be India’s greatest political thinkers. Incidentally, the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh swears by the name and ideology of Lohia to the extent that Mulayam Singh Yadav often takes the credit of being Lohia’s most ideal successor.
Modi has been trying very hard to dispel the notion of his government being pro-rich and it was obvious by the fact that his address was dominated by the theme of welfare of the poor. The concept of ‘Antyodaya’ was adopted as the governance mantra by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Vajpayee had visited Mathura in 2001 and had launched the Integrated Rural Employment Scheme.
Mathura-Vrindavan, known as Brajbhumi and revered as being the birthplace of Lord Shri Krishna, is marked by the presence of the Yamuna river and scores of magnificent temples including Krishna Janmabhumi in Vrindavan. It was once influenced by farmer-oriented politics of late Charan Singh. His son Ajit Singh had formed the Rashtriya Lok Dal which was wiped out in the last Lok Sabha election. Ajit Singh, his son Jayant Chaudhary, Amar Singh and Jaya Prada were among RLD nominees who had failed to win seats in 2014.
In the last Lok Sabha election, the BJP had recorded a sweeping victory in the Braj region comprising Mathura, Vrindavan, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Aligarh, Hathras, Etah, Kasganj (Farrukhabad), Etawah, Mainpuri and Firozabad. The Samajwadi Party had managed to win only Mainpuri and Firozabad, where Mulayam Singh Yadav and his nephew Dharmendra Yadav had won. Mulayam later vacated Mainpuri in favour of Azamgarh, and in the ensuing by-election his grand-nephew Tej Pratap Singh Yadav won from Mainpuri.
Culturally, the region also includes the adjoining districts of Rajasthan. There is considerable Jat influence in the region and incidentally in the adjoining Rajasthan, members of the Jat community are heading a fierce and violent struggle to seek reservation in jobs.
Modi had addressed several rallies in the region during the Lok Sabha election campaign. He had visited Mathura on 21 April last year when an unprecedented crowd of a lakh people had collected to listen to him, throwing the entire city and traffic on the Agra-Jaipur National Highway (NH-2) into turmoil. Party candidate Hema Malini had defeated RLD supremo Ajit Singh’s son and sitting MP Jayant Choudhary by over three lakh votes.
Locals in Mathura rue that except for the Mathura Refinery, launched by the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s regime in 1972, no big-ticket development has taken place in the region. The Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Janmotsav Samiti is reported to have sent a list of possible projects in Mathura.
It includes a national-level medical or educational institution, agro industrial projects, pollution control measures for the Yamuna, Central status to the Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Veterinary University and Cow Research Centre, and a tourist promotion project for the Braj circuit. Action on giving a Heritage City status to Mathura, as promised by Modi, is also awaited.
Cleaning the of the river Yamuna is an emotional issue in the region and activists of Clean Yamuna Campaign have been reminding Modi of his promise. However, Modi’s focus at the rally was more on highlighting the fact that one year of his government did not see any scam, and he forced the point that had there had not been a change in government, the country would have been “destroyed.”
His brief address to the office bearers of the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Dham in Nagla Chandrabhan highlighted the fact that the late leader had devised an exceptional model to change the lives of the poor. The Prime Minister was reported to have held a closed-door meeting with senior local RSS leaders and had discussions with state BJP leaders. The rally venue was a large ground in Deen Dayal Dham which had a gathering of more than one lakh people. The huge success of the rally in a region once dominated by the RLD has come as a big boost to Hema Malini’s stature.
The rally has marked the launch of a nationwide week-long campaignto propagate the achievements of one year of the Modi government. Union ministers, MPs and chief ministers of states ruled by BJP-NDA are scheduled to address scores of such rallies and public meetings as part of the campaign.