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Are Sangeet Som's Taj Mahal Remarks Part of BJP Strategy for UP Civic Polls?

While BJP has officially distanced itself from Som's position, the fact is that it has only added fuel to a controversy that began much earlier, partly through statements made by the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who publicly expressed reservations about accepting the mausoleum as being representative of Indian culture.

Suhas Munshi | News18.com

Updated:October 17, 2017, 9:35 PM IST
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Are Sangeet Som's Taj Mahal Remarks Part of BJP Strategy for UP Civic Polls?
File photo of BJP MLA Sangeet Som (Getty Images)
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New Delhi: With crucial civic polls due in Uttar Pradesh next month, BJP MLA Sangeet Som has tried the old trick again. It is not the first time that Som has tried to polarise discourse just before an election.

Ahead of a bye-poll in Uttar Pradesh in 2014, he called for a mahapanchayat on ‘Love Jihad’. On the eve of polling, Som called this year’s UP Assembly elections a ‘fight between Hindustan and Pakistan’ and distributed CDs with clippings from Muzaffarnagar riots, in which he is implicated. He was in fact among the five people who reportedly were castigated by BJP high command for raking up the beef issue following Mohammed Akhlaq’s murder, in 2015.

While BJP has officially distanced itself from Som's position, the fact is that it has only added fuel to a controversy that began much earlier, partly through statements made by the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who publicly expressed reservations about accepting the mausoleum as being representative of Indian culture.

In June this year, Adityanath had said, “Earlier, foreign dignitaries visiting the country used to be gifted replicas of the Taj Mahal and other minarets which did not reflect Indian culture.” At another instance, during a debate on a TV channel, Adityanath had said he wouldn’t even mind changing the name of Taj Mahal. Now, Adityanath himself has made plans to visit Taj Mahal on October 26.

The controversy over Taj Mahal as well as a proposal to install a 100 meter high statue of Ram on the banks of river Saryu in Ayodhya where Yogi will be spending this Diwali, could be seen as part of BJP’s election campaigning for the upcoming civic polls which are vital for BJP for at least three very immediate reasons.

First is that civic polls in Uttar Pradesh will be held in November when Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will also go to polls. The sentiments from one election could easily affect the public sentiment in other elections.

Second is that after November, bypolls are also due in two assembly seats – Gorakhpur and Phulpur. The first is Parliament constituency of UP’s Chief Minister while the other is Parliamentary constituency of its deputy Chief Minister.

The third reason that UP civic polls are crucial to BJP is that these will be held eight months after Yogi government’s swearing in, and will be for this reason the first real test of party’s popularity. The state which rewarded Modi for his ambitious demonetisation scheme, will now be assessing his other big financial reform – the GST.

And the civic polls will also of course help BJP make course correction in time for 2019 general elections.

BJP’s seriousness in winning these polls can be gauged from the fact that it is working, after a gap of 17 years, to issue a manifesto for UP civic polls. BSP too is trying something new this time – fielding its candidates under its own party symbol.

The strategy for civic polls is mainly what BJP is understood to have discussed in its state working panel meet in Kanpur last week.

Civic polls are scheduled at an interesting time for all the major parties in Uttar Pradesh. Congress, which is fighting the polls alone, is upbeat after winning the Gurdaspur bypoll by a huge margin. And the regional parties – SP and BSP – are gearing up for their first electoral fight after reinventing themselves following mass defections and massive drubbing in state polls.

BJP will be fighting the polls on the back of losses in civic polls in Nanded, defeats in bypolls in Gurdaspur and Vengara, and a string of losses in student elections.

But the party will also back itself on the results of last civic poll results – in which BJP was successful in installing 12 out of 16 Mayors in the state.

In this political contest in UP, this may not be the last we hear from BJP’s MLA from Sardana, Sangeet Som.

Other local motormouths in BJP that have been silent like Som, since the party came to power, may also break their silence in days to come as UP comes nearer to casting its votes in the civic polls.
| Edited by: Ananya Chakraborty
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