BY ANINDYA BANERJEE
New Delhi, Jan 16 (IANS) “Ek inch bhi wapas nahi jaayenge (We won’t backtrack even an inch)” were the words of Union Home Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah amid nationwide anti-CAA protests this January. This was not the first time though Shah refused to blink.
Earlier, he promised that the BJP-led NDA government will stand “Chattan ki tarah” (like a rock) on the contentious issue. Now, IANS has reliably learnt, Shah has ordered carpetbombing by BJP in the form of large scale rallies in the coming week across Uttar Pradesh.
Starting January 18, the BJP will hold as many as six big rallies across UP. The BJP state unit has given adequate feedback that India’s most populous state has a massive “silent majority” which supports the amended Citizenship Act. Shah has instructed to hold six rallies where the BJP state unit has been specifically told to ensure the “silent majority” must come out in the open to vocally support the BJP’s move by their participation in those rallies.
The first of the six rallies will be addressed by Union Minister Smriti Irani and the penultimate one, projected as the ‘season finale’ in UP, will be addressed by J.P. Nadda, tipped to be the new BJP President by then.
Sources say, the venue of the rallies have been chosen by “Adhyakshji” (as Shah is referred to in BJP circles) himself. The first rally will take place in the Prime Minister’s own constituency of Varanasi and the last one in the city of the Taj Mahal — Agra.
While Irani will address the Varanasi rally on January 18, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will address a huge rally the next day on January 19 at Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s hometurf Gorakhpur. Yogi himself is likely to be present at the Gorakhpur rally and personally supervise its success, say BJP insiders privy to the decision by Shah.
BJP’s Nagpur MP, Union minister and former party President Nitin Gadkari has been asked to steer the third rally at Kanpur on January 20. Shah himself chose Gadkari for Kanpur, said a source. “Gadkari was not scheduled to address Kanpur. But Amit Shah insisted Gadkari be given Kanpur, given a large scale presence of business community in the leather town who hails Gadkari for ensuring that Ganga rejuvenation does not adversely affect the industry there. Such minute details are been kept in mind for this UP blitzkrieg,” said the same BJP source.
Ever since Gadkari took over as Water Resources, Rivers and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister, he took projects to tackle pollution at the two hotspots in Kanpur’s Jajmau (industrial effluents) and Sisamau (domestic sewage), without burdening an already ailing industry which was feeling the heat due to demonetisation and GST.
Shah will address the fourth rally on January 21 in capital Lucknow where the top BJP leadership from the Centre as well as the state are likely to be in attendance. Adityanath will also be a part of the grand rally, for which door to door mobilisation has already begun.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who the minorities are comfortable with has been made the star of the fifth rally at minority-dominated Meerut, about 80 kms from Delhi. Singh’s proximity to Lucknow-based Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad is well known. This rally is scheduled for January 22.
The finale at Agra will be addressed by BJP’s Working President Nadda, on January 23, who by then is likely to be elected as the BJP’s new boss. Probably, that’s why Shah has deliberately kept the final rally for Nadda, signalling Nadda has the backing of Shah himself.
The entire party machinery has been pressed into action who are distributing one pamphlet each to every family, where the reasons for bringing a legislation like CAA are clubbed in a pointed manner. The BJP’s IT cell will also play a decisive role during the rallies to give an extra digital push in favour of the pro-CAA discourse.
“The BJP leadership is convinced that turnout at those six rallies in Uttar Pradesh will make the opposition take note of the vast number of populace who are in favour of CAA but so far chose to remain silent. This may force them to tone down their sharp opposition to the Act. But for that to happen, each of the six rallies needs to be a grand success,” said a BJP functionary privy to the planning.
After claiming “Ek inch bhi wapas nahi jaayenge” in Jodhpur earlier this month, Shah has a plan in place to ensure it does not come to that.
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
BY ANINDYA BANERJEE