“Rama, Modi, Yogi — The Only Three Names You Hear In Ayodhya”: Minister Shobha Karandlaje, Traversing Hindi Heartland
“The whole of Uttar Pradesh is only looking at Modi-Yogi and the welfare they have brought to the state,“ Shobha Karandlaje said.
"The only three words one hears all around Ayodhya are Modi, Yogi, Rama,” says Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Shobha Karandlaje. She was summing up the last lap of her campaign in Ambedkar Nagar district on Saturday (26 February).
“The whole of Uttar Pradesh is only looking at Modi-Yogi and the welfare they have brought to the state, and no one else even figures anywhere close to this election,“ Karandlaje says with confidence as the region went to polls on Sunday.
Having handed the responsibility of the Avadh region as the sah prabhari this election season, Karandlaje has been seen leading large groups of women cadre of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and holding door-to-door campaigns for the last few weeks.
“People across the state are talking only of the welfare that has been brought about by our governments, be it the ration that was given to the poor twice a month or the houses that were built. They share that "our roads are improving, our bridges have gotten better, free vaccines were given, power, which was earlier just for a few hours a day, we now have for 20-24 hours a day".
"And, for the first time, people here in Uttar Pradesh have realised that the Union and state governments can jointly bring about such transformational changes and development,” says Karandlaje, sharing her experience from her various campaign visits across the region.
“People are only talking of development. All these years, development was unheard of, but now they see it happen and this has enhanced their awareness of the possibilities. For the first time, a trust factor is being witnessed among people about the government and its commitment to working for them,” she says.
Karandlaje has been seen meeting mainly women voters while being accompanied predominantly by women party cadre. “All these years, women in UP, and north India at large, were not stepping out as much. But Modi-Yogi have together offered various schemes that are focused on women, be it Ujjwala gas or the toilets that every home has got or homes being in the women’s names.
Also, with better law and order, women are able to move around fearlessly. So, for all these reasons, women have a feeling that Yogi ji will ‘protect us and empower us’, she says.
"This is what we hear even from Muslim women. They say Yogi ji ka namak khaaye hain. So, for the first time, we are seeing this environment in Uttar Pradesh,” she adds, explaining that women voters are glad to be meeting women leaders on the ground and have come out in greater numbers.
Karandlaje says it has also been her focus since she took charge as the sah prabhari. “In all my meetings, I have shared even with our central leaders that we should focus on our women voters and that it is women who should meet women at their homes. Because, when men head to campaign, in many places, women won't meet and often won't even step out to greet. For which, I had also been vocal that women groups at the booth level should be formed, who go meet women exclusively and share the various schemes of our government that will truly make women strengthen our hands. And that‘s what we have done,” she explains.
Responding to the Brahmin-Thakur unease that has been said to impact the votes this election with recent happenings in the party, she says such rifts are not a ground reality but plain negative propaganda by the opposition. “If a Brahmin had been the leader, they would make it anti-Thakur. Our Yogi ji is beyond being identified as a Thakur or a Brahmin. He has been working with none of these identities, but as a Hindu. A yogi has no caste and our CM (chief minister) here has been working for all castes,” she says.
“Our party, be it Modi ji–Yogi ji here or even in Karnataka, has offered welfare schemes that are all-inclusive and never on the basis of any caste or religion, but to empower the weaker sections. Even in our state, be it Bhagyalakshmi or Sandhya Suraksha, it has been for everyone, unlike, say, Siddaramaiah, who gave Shaadi Bhagya only for Muslim women.
"This is their policy of being discriminatory, but when our party has come to power, we have worked as every citizen’s government — not for any particular religion or caste,” she adds.
With Ayodhya having gone to polls today, it is interesting to note how the double-edged sword of development has worked for the BJP, since a considerable section of people had expressed fear over the uncertainty that the overhaul of the city of Rama would bring to their lives.
While the ‘pro-incumbency’ that Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about in one of his recent interviews was witnessed among sections who were glad that the city was seeing positive intention and action after decades, there was also sombre anti-incumbency among people whose shops and homes were to be relocated or made way for the proposed development. Which, the authorities, too, had admitted, was the reason certain developmental activities were being put on hold until elections, fearing backlash.
Have those fears vanished, or will they affect the voter decision?
“The development is sure impacting lives in both ways. While people by and large welcome it, there will be opposition from those who are losing homes, shops, or, say, trees being chopped. But our government has assured of very good compensation, just like what was given in Kashi.
"Also, at certain places, we have proposals for elevated highways so that shops and the like do not have to make way for development. So, there is no need for people to fear," Karandlaje says.
“Ayodhya needs this development, as you (Swarajya) have witnessed yourself,” she says.
”As this will attract visitors from across the globe, which means Ayodhya is awaiting a huge economic boost, for this I am sure people will cooperate and understand. And whatever can be done to inconvenience people to the least, will be done,” she adds.
So, how was it traversing the Hindi heartland, especially bridging the language barrier in the heart of Uttar Pradesh?
“It has been very heart-warming. As people appreciate that as a South Indian, I was speaking Hindi,” she quips.
On a lighter note: ”Of course, it isn't easy because I have issues in terms of number agreement — singulars and plurals and honorifics. Which is why I always tell people right at the beginning when I address meetings and the like, asking pardon for any such errors. But ever since I took charge in UP, thanks to the increased opportunities to speak and converse, I speak better Hindi now,” she says, signing off.
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