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From Caste to Class: How BJP Plans to Bring in Pro-poor Narrative in UP With Modi's Varanasi Visit

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches the membership drive in Varanasi on Saturday, among the first to be roped will be those from the working class.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:July 6, 2019, 11:04 AM IST
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From Caste to Class: How BJP Plans to Bring in Pro-poor Narrative in UP With Modi's Varanasi Visit
File photo of PM Narendra Modi.

Class and not caste will be the Bharatiya Janata Party’s driving mantra for its month-long membership drive starting from Saturday.

Beginning almost a month after its second consecutive win in the Lok Sabha elections, party’s shift to this new “class approach” comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first speech post results, had said, “Elections had set in a new narrative, that of there being only two castes in the country. One of the poor and the other that can actually contribute in some way to put an end to poverty.”

The Prime Minister had also appealed to academicians to study and research on the basis of this new narrative. While academic debates still might not be happening over this new approach towards the “class phenomenon” in society, the BJP is set to reflect it in its upcoming membership drive.

As of now, the party claims to have more than 10 crore members nationwide — more than 1.34 crore of them being in Uttar Pradesh itself. In UP alone, the party aims to add around 40 lakh new members. However, the focus of these new memberships would remain the lower strata of the society. The BJP leadership wishes to move beyond the urban and middle-class segments and reach out to the poor.

Describing the new strategy, a senior office bearer of the state unit of the BJP, not willing to be quoted said, “The 2019 election results had given us strong reasons to believe that we had breached the caste boundaries. People from all castes, even a section of minorities voted for us. The reason of this transformation had been our pro-poor policies. Those who benefitted of from government schemes, cutting across caste lines, now look towards the BJP.”

It was this understanding that was echoed in Modi’s speech where he gave a new dimension to class politics.

“As a ruling party at the state and Centre, we never discriminated between citizens of one caste from the other. We worked on the philosophy of common good. It was evident in all our government schemes, be it Ayushman Bharat, Ujjwala or housing for all. People look towards us and we as an organization will now try to reach directly to the last man of the society,” said Dileep Srivastava, BJP’s state spokesperson.

Sources say that guided by this approach, when Modi and BJP working president JP Nadda kick-off the membership drive in Varanasi on Saturday, among the first to be roped will be those from the working class such as rickshaw pullers, cobblers and street vendors. A similar move is expected at other places where the the campaign will be launched by senior party leaders.

The Prime Minister will also address a programme in Varanasi to mark the launch of BJP’s membership drive.

For a massive outreach, especially across the rural sector, the party has divided the state in clusters eight booths. Each booth has around 1,800 voters and is being placed under a sector in-charge and one Pravasi. After its spectacular performance against the caste alliance of SP and BSP in the state, the party is strongly focusing in those regions that are considered traditional strongholds of the two regional heavyweights.

Amid this enormous “class spin” to the membership drive, BJP’s focus also remains on making a further outreach towards the backward and Dalit castes, especially the Yadavs and Jatavs, who despite a breech, had mostly remained loyal to their traditional political parties. The BJP leaders claim that around 18 percent Yadavs voted for the saffron party and in the core Jatav vote bank of the BSP, there was a breach of around 16 per cent.

The Left, however, slams the move as a mere jumla(figure of speech). CPI(M)’S state committee member, professor Pradeep Sharma, said, “The BJP won not due to class support but by playing on Hinduvtva and nationalism. The poor are getting further poor, unemployment is on the rise, and farmers are in distress and economy is in deep crisis,” Sharma said, adding that BJP leaders should “refrain from giving lessons on class politics” and instead focus on “putting the House in order”.

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| Edited by: Divya Kapoor
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