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BJP’s Jan Ashirwad Yatra — What 39 ministers travelling 22 states in 5 days hope for

A look at the speeches and itineraries of Modi's new Cabinet ministers, from Anurag Thakur to Narayan Rane, during their 5-day Jan Ashirwad Yatra.

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New Delhi: Union minister Ashiwini Vaishnaw interacting with passengers on a train, Minister of State Dr Bharati Pawar dancing with tribals in Palghar district of Maharashtra and colleague Anurag Thakur being greeted with slogans of ‘kaun aaya, kaun aaya, sher aaya, sher aaya’. 

Such visuals of Union ministers mingling with people as part of the five-day Jan Ashirwad Yatra, which ended 21 August, gave a glimpse of how the BJP is looking to politically capitalise on the latest reshuffle and expansion of the union council of ministers. 

While Union Minister Narayan Rane’s Jan Ashirwad Yatra in Maharashtra has drawn national attention, thanks to an unseemly row over his arrest for the ‘slap remark’ against CM Uddhav Thackeray, his three-dozen ministerial colleagues were holding similar yatras in 21 other states to achieve different political objectives. It’s arguably the first time that a ruling party organised a yatra of such a big scale — 39 ministers travelling across 22 states. 

The central idea, BJP leaders said, was not only to showcase how Prime Minister Narendra Modi was empowering leaders from different castes and communities but also to change public perception about the NDA government, which had taken a hit due to Covid mismanagement.   

A close look at the itineraries and speeches of these ministers during their yatras shows that they were seeking to achieve broadly four objectives. 

Also read: ‘Team Rajasthan’ is BJP’s new buzzword, to make up for no CM face in 2023 elections

Change public perception about failures in governance

The Modi government’s mismanagement of Covid had created a lot of anger on the ground with a survey conducted by India Today indicating that PM Modi’s popularity had taken a hit. 

According to the survey, though Modi got the most votes, his popularity had plunged. Only 24 per cent now feel he is the best choice for PM, down from 38 per cent in January 2020, and 66 per cent in August 2020. 

Not only this, MLAs and MPs of the BJP were also upset over the mismanagement and had pointed out how they were unable to go out and meet the people fearing a backlash. 

Given the perception about the Centre’s failure to effectively respond to the second wave of the pandemic, these ministers showcased its free vaccination programme as a big success and also spoke about other achievements of the Modi government. 

Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Rupala, for instance, praised the efforts of the government and highlighted the vaccination programme undertaken by it. 

“All of you will be glad to know that we have administered the vaccine to 55 crore people. And such an arrangement has been made that by December all Indians will get vaccinated. Nowhere in the world has such a vaccination programme taken place,” Rupala said at Gujarat’s Mehsana district.  

BJP leader Anurag Thakur who visited Himachal Pradesh for the first time since he was elevated as a Cabinet minister, used the opportunity to talk about the government’s achievements in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Article 370 and Article 35A have been abolished from Jammu and Kashmir forever. J&K is moving fast on the path of development. In less than two years, the pace of work has grown exponentially,” Thakur said

Union Minister Bhupender Yadav in his rallies highlighted the work done by the government at the Centre and how the Modi government is working towards transforming India into an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. 

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw at Kalahandi in Odisha as part of the Jan Ashirwad Yatra | Twitter/@AshwiniVaishnaw
Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw at Kalahandi in Odisha as part of the Jan Ashirwad Yatra | Twitter/@AshwiniVaishnaw

Outreach to different castes and social groups

Unable to introduce his newly-inducted ministers in Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had accused the opposition of stonewalling democratic practices. 

“I thought there would be an atmosphere of excitement in the House today because women, Dalits, Adivasis have been made ministers in large numbers… I would have been happy to introduce them… and thought this would have made everyone happy,” the PM had said amid loud sloganeering.

“And, those people are not even allowing the introduction of new ministers. And, hence new members should be considered introduced in the Lok Sabha.”

According to data made available by the Modi government, the recently expanded council of ministers includes 27 other backward classes (OBC), 12 scheduled castes (SC) and eight scheduled tribes (ST). A number of castes, including Darzi and Modh Teli, have been represented in the council for the first time.

Of the 39 ministers from the BJP who were brought into the council of ministers in the last reshuffle, 14 came from the OBC community taking their total to 27, and nine from the SC community taking their total to 12. 

The BJP used the yatra to highlight this aspect to the people.

Take Union Minister Bhupender Yadav. An OBC face of the party, his yatra began from Gurgaon in Haryana and made its way to Rajasthan. The second leg of Yadav’s yatra started from Bhiwadi in Alwar district and covered multiple places. He then travelled to the rural areas and towns in Alwar, Jaipur and Ajmer districts. Both Alwar and Ajmer have a significant OBC population. 

“In Jaipur, the OBC front of BJP gave a grand welcome to the Jan Ashirwad Yatra and Union Minister Bhupender Yadav in the Birla Auditorium premises,” said a senior leader. 

Union Minister Bhupender Yadav (donning turban) during his Jan Ashirwad Yatra in Rajasthan | Twitter/@byadavbjp
Union Minister Bhupender Yadav (donning turban) during his Jan Ashirwad Yatra in Rajasthan | Twitter/@byadavbjp

Similarly, in Gujarat, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Rupala reached out to their Patidar community. The Patidar reservation agitation of 2017 had played a crucial role in the assembly elections of that year, enabling the Congress to provide stiff competition to the BJP. 

While addressing a meeting, which was a part of his yatra, Mandaviya told Patidar leaders that “BJP and Patidars are one”. The union minister made it a point to visit Khodaldham temple in Kagvad, the apex religious body of Leuva Patels, and address Patidar leaders. The temple is near Rajkot. 

Similarly, Rupala addressed a gathering at Valinath Dham, which is considered significant for the Maldhari community, in Mehsana district even as he kickstarted his yatra from Unjha of Mehsana, which is also dominated by the Patidars. 

The Rajya Sabha MP also paid a visit to Shree Umiya Mataji Sansthan in Mehsana district, which is considered the top body of Kadva Patidars in Gujarat. 

Bharti Pawar, Union Minister of State for Health and a tribal leader, conducted her yatra in the tribal-dominated areas of Palghar and Nashik and even danced with the locals, something which the BJP showcased as the tribal community expressing its happiness over her induction. 

“Witness the enthusiastic visuals of Adivasis at#JanAshirwadYatra as their Adivasi Learned daughter from the soil of Maharashtra@DrBharatippawar Ji inducted in the@narendramodi Ji’s Cabinet,” tweeted BJP leader Sunil Deodhar.

Similarly, in the south, Union Minister of State for Social Justice, Anekal Narayanaswamy,
took part in a yatra in his native Karnataka amid the slogans of ‘Jai Madiga’, and warm welcomes in places such as Nelamangala in Bengaluru Rural district and Tumakuru.

Union Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Kaushal Kishore, a prominent Dalit face who belongs to the Pasi caste, visited Unnao, Rae Bareli and Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh as part of his yatra. Barabanki has a sizeable number of people who belong to the Pasi community

Also read: Modi govt’s pitch for 2022 UP election — booklet on how BJP worked for OBC welfare

Ahead of elections, highlighting work of state govts

With elections all set to take place in five states, including BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, Goa, and Uttarakhand, the ministers used the yatra to highlight the work done by the state governments too.

In Maharashtra, where the high-stakes civic elections will take place in 2022, Union Minister Narayan Rane used the opportunity to target the Shiv Sena and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state, before his arrest overshadowed events. Elections to 22 municipal corporations, 24 district councils and several tehsil level bodies in Maharashtra are set to take place in the next six months. 

“It is my responsibility like it is the responsibility of other BJP leaders such as Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar that we have to win the Mumbai civic election. The BJP will win the election come what may. The Shiv Sena will have to suffer for its sins over the years,” he said.

Kaushal Kishore used his rallies in Uttar Pradesh to target the Samajwadi Party and Akhilesh Yadav. Addressing a rally in Barabanki, Kishore accused Akhilesh Yadav of indulging in appeasement politics. 

Re-energising cadre

According to a senior BJP leader, due to the Covid and the subsequent electoral loss in the West Bengal elections, the BJP cadre had been demotivated and the yatras served as a tool to re-galvanise them. 

“We had to organise a series of rallies for 39 ministers across the country, which was not an easy task. This required a lot of work and meticulous planning,” said the senior leader.

“In many states, several committees were formed to oversee the work and ensure it all went smoothly. This once again gave the workers an opportunity to get involved and participate in outreach programmes that had been halted due to Covid.” 

Ministers also used the yatra to target the Opposition parties

Union minister Anurag Thakur in Himachal Pradesh targeted the Congress for not letting the Parliament function. Praising the ‘young cabinet’ of PM Modi, he said the Congress, unable to digest the popularity of PM Modi, was only indulging in stalling proceedings. 

Bharti Pawar hit out at the Maharashtra government. “The Central government released Rs 70 crore and number of ventilators for Maharashtra, but it is surprising not a single equipment has reached Palghar. The Centre gave Rs 23,000 crore to various states to fight against Covid-19 pandemic. We are taking stock of the implementation of the central schemes in the state, but the approach of the state machinery is indifferent,” she said during her yatra.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: MP BJP wants to rein in its leaders for ‘irresponsible’ remarks, gets ready with tech to track



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