Amit Shah, in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh on Saturday to lay the foundation stone for a university, attacked the head of the Samajwadi Party, Akhilesh Yadav, and praised the chief minister, Yogi Adityanath.
The demonstration and Mr. Shah’s comments were significant thanks to UP’s votes in a few months.
The location (Azamgarh) was also crucial: it is the Yadav constituency and the BJP was hit here in 2019, losing by more than 2.4 lakh of votes and defeated by more than 26,000 votes in 2017.
A BJP leader has never won the seat of the Azamgarh Assembly, so this is a great battle of prestige.
Among the significant comments are the promise of “jam” to the people of UP (which led to a mockery of Yadav) and a pledge to Adityanath as the party’s top ministerial candidate.
“Modiji has a JAM idea for India and UP …” Amit Shah said proudly, adding: “… Jan Dhan bank accounts, Aadhaar cards and mobile phones for everyone. When I said this in Gujarat, the Samajwadi Party He said he also had an idea for ‘jam’ I asked a journalist what this was … he said it meant ‘Jinnah, Azam Khan and Mukhtar (Ansari, the gangster turned politician in prison)’.
“Now tell me … do you want our ‘jam’ or the one from the Samajwadi Party?” asked the union minister.
“As the election approaches, Akhilesh has started to see greatness in Jinnah. There are minorities sitting here … Does anyone feel that Jinnah is great? No one … it’s just Akhilesh who feels this,” he said.
The ‘Jinnah’ coup against Mr. Yadav, a former UP senior minister, refers to the recent controversy over the Samajwadi Party leader’s comment linking Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah .
With only a few months before UP votes for a new government, the BJP (and others, including AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi) gleefully jumped on the comment and criticized the Samajwadi Party chief.
Adityanath led the attack, calling Akhilesh Yadav a man with a “Talibani mentality”.
“Their divisive mentality came to light again … It is the Talibani mentality that believes in division,” declared the Chief Minister as he demanded an apology from Akhilesh Yadav.
Critics also included the head of the BSP, Mayawati, who claimed that the BJP and the Samajwadi Party were working together to poison the minds of voters and polarize them before the elections.
Yadav has rejected criticism and asked those who attacked him to read history textbooks instead.
The BJP has always targeted the Samajwadi Party – which has support among Muslims – for appeasement; at one point, Mr. Yadav’s father, Mulayam Singh, was nicknamed “Maulana Mulayam”.
Also today, in addition to offering UP’s ‘jam’, Shah also underscored the BJP’s support for Adityanath as the main ministerial face of the party, which is important given the intense turmoil surrounding his future after senior party leaders , including a Union minister, will criticize his handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The call for votes included a subtle note of impatience with the poll results.
“I said before that we never get proper seats in Azamgarh … but ‘ab bahut ho gaya‘. I ask that you give all seats to the BJP so that Yogi Adityanath can once again be Chief Minister, “said Amit Shah.
This is not the first time that Amit Shah has praised Adityanath; last month he asked for votes for the Chief Minister and, more importantly, linked those votes to the BJP’s 2024 election campaign, when PM Modi is expected to run for an unprecedented third consecutive term.
Meanwhile, Akhilesh Yadav was also not calm today, responding to the BJP on his turf by campaigning in the Adityanath backyard in Gorakhpur.
“There will and has to be a change. The public is disappointed with the Yogi government, their promises are false. They said inflation will come down … but prices have risen. Look at the fuel prices,” he said while holding a 60 km rally from Gorakhpur to neighboring Kushinagar.
Yadav spoke to NDTV this week and took a look at his plan to defeat the BJP: a pincer move of regional parties in the eastern part of the state and angry farmers in the west.
How effective this will be can only be decided when UP votes next year.