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Caste, 2022 will be in play as Yogi govt looks to name 9 colleges after saints, BJP leaders

The nine medical colleges will be inaugurated sometime in August.  With this, the total number of medical colleges in the state will increase to 33.  

File photo | UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath | ANI
File photo | Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath | ANI

Lucknow: The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is set to inaugurate nine new medical colleges, ahead of the assembly election in the state, all of which are likely to be named after local deities, leaders of the Jan Sangh and those from the BJP.  

A UP government official told ThePrint that the colleges will be inaugurated sometime in August. With this, the total number of medical colleges in the state will increase to 33.

According to government officials, the medical education department has already proposed names for seven of the nine colleges. While the final decision is yet to be taken on the names, sources in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said the proposed names will more or less remain.  

UP principal secretary (medical education department) Alok Kumar told ThePrint that only the name of one college, which is in Pratapgarh, has been finalised.  

“All other names have been proposed but a final call is yet to be taken on them,” he said. “These nine medical colleges will boost health infrastructure in the state, especially in the eastern (Purvanchal) region.” 

Kumar, however, refused to comment on whether the colleges were being named after saints, deities, and BJP leaders.

ThePrint tried to reach Medical Education Minister Suresh Khanna via phone call but his staff said he was not available to comment on the issue. 

The proposed names have caused a stir, with the opposition accusing the BJP of looking for political benefits everywhere, a charge that the ruling party has denied. 

Also read: UP Brahmins in demand for votes. SP, BSP, Congress wooing them, BJP trying hard to keep them

Political & caste considerations, BJP leaders

According to sources in the CMO, the new medical college at Pratapgarh district will be named after Sonelal Patel, founder of the Apna Dal. 

The Apna Dal is an ally of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Pratapgarh has a significant population of the party’s voter base, the Kurmis. 

“It’s been long due,” a local Apna Dal leader told ThePrint. “We are thankful that the government understands local sentiments and respects the late Sonelal Patel, founder of our party.” 

“The BJP doesn’t want to deny Apna Dal’s demand as elections are hardly six months away,” a source in the CMO said.

The medical college at Siddharthnagar is expected to be named after Madhav Prasad Tripathi, the first-ever president of the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit. Tripathi was among the tallest leaders of the Jan Sangh in the 1970s. 

According to a UP BJP functionary, Tripathi was born in Tiwaripur village, which is in Siddharthanagar. “His father was active in the Indian freedom movement. He belonged to a prominent Brahmin family that had good connections in local areas,” the BJP leader said.  

According to the CMO source, another reason for proposing his name is to woo Brahmins in the state.

The medical college in Etah is expected to be named after Avanti Bai Lodhi, who was part of the 1857 rebellion against the British East India Company. The BJP functionary quoted above said Avanti Bai was a member of the Lodhi Rajput Community, which is eight per cent of the population in the Etah belt.

Sources said the medical college at Jaunpur could be named after former Jan Sangh and BJP leader Umanath Singh. Singh was a four-time MLA from the Bayalasi constituency in Jaunpur. 

Also read: Congress open to alliance or ‘tactical understanding’ in UP but SP ‘won’t repeat 2017 mistake’

Saints, local deities to be honoured

A few of the new medical colleges might be named after saints and local deities.  

Sources said the medical college in Deoria will be named after Devraha baba, also spelled as Deoraha baba. 

A Deoria BJP leader told ThePrint that the baba lived beside the Yamuna river in Mathura. “Before shifting to Mathura, the baba spent several years in Deoria district,” he said. “He used to live on a high platform made of wooden logs, situated 3 km from the town on the banks of Sarayu river. He was a famous yogi saint in the district.” 

“The Yogi government is ensuring more prominence to his legacy by starting a medical college in his name,” he added.

In Mirzapur, the UP government has proposed to name the new medical college after the deity Maa Vindhyavasini. A temple for the deity is famous in the Mirzapur region. 

In Ghazipur, the medical college is expected to be named after Vishwamitra, a mythological saint of ancient India.  “The reason behind naming the medical college after Vishwamitra is that his father’s name was Raja Gadhi. Ghazipur district was earlier called Gadhipur,” said BJP functionary Naveen Srivastava. “The name got changed to Ghazipur. Now a medical college has been proposed in the name of Vishwamitra. It’s an old demand of the local people.”

The medical colleges at Fatehpur and Hardoi districts have yet to get names but the CMO source said they too will be named after local saints or Jan Sangh leaders. 

‘BJP looking for political benefits everywhere’: Oppn slams govt

The opposition has slammed the government over the move, accusing it of indulging in politics of symbolism.

“The BJP has a habit of doing politics over names. They change any place’s name to suit their politics,” said Samajwadi Party leader and former UP cabinet minister Prof Abhishek Mishra.

“Most of these medical colleges were approved during the SP government’s regime,” he added. “The BJP can keep whatever name it wants but the public knows that only the SP government has done credible work for health infrastructure.”

UP Congress spokesperson Anshu Awasthi also slammed the government. “They can keep whatever name they want. But will they provide proper facilities in these medical colleges?” he asked. “We saw what happened during the second Covid wave in UP. Now they are inaugurating nine medical colleges just before elections.”

UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi told ThePrint that it was the government’s prerogative to name the colleges. “Until now, several buildings were named after Britishers and Mughals. We are naming them by understanding local sentiments,” he said. “These saints and leaders have a local connection. So what’s wrong if we are giving such names? At least we are not naming every building after one political family. The Yogi government is paying tribute to the legacy of such popular saints and leaders. Everyone should appreciate it.”

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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