In a fresh attempt to woo the Nishad community, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh is depending on ‘river yatras’ ahead of the 2022 state Assembly elections.
The party plans to connect with the riverine community comprising 22 influential sub-castes like Nishads and Kashyaps.
The river yatras, named as ‘Kamal Nauka Yatra’, have members of fishermen and boatmen communities travelling by the BJP boats, talking about the party’s initiatives for the community that is politically dominant along the banks of the Ganga and the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh.
Of the five river journeys, one each in Prayagraj and Kanpur across the Ganga ghats, have already commenced.
Three more have been planned on the Kachla river in Badaun, across the Ganga in Varanasi and in Garh Mukteshwar in western Uttar Pradesh.
According to state BJP General Secretary Ashwini Tyagi, “these yatras are to connect with the community that earns its living from the rivers. Over the years, the BJP government has launched several initiatives for this community and naturally, the idea is to make the community aware of these steps”.
“Depending on the ghats, we plan the number of boats. So, for instance Varanasi boat journeys would be bigger than the ones in Badaun’s Kachla, which has only one ghat.”
Before the river journeys, boats and river are worshipped and speeches made with party flags fluttering in the background.
The BJP has struck an alliance with the Nishad Party, whose chief Sanjay Nishad was recently made a member of the Vidhan Parishad.
Sanjay Nishad’s son Pravin Kumar Nishad is currently a Lok Sabha MP from Sant Kabir Nagar on a BJP ticket.
However, Sanjay Nishad is seen as an unpredictable leader who wavers on his stand from time to time.
The BJP, therefore, is taking no chances and is reaching out directly to the Nishad community.
The Nishad influence is spread across Purvanchal stretching from Jaunpur to Gorakhpur and from Varanasi to Ballia and beyond.
The BJP government has begun work on installation of a 51-feet statue in which Lord Ram will be seen hugging Nishadraj (king of the community), who, according to an ancient belief, had helped Lord Ram cross the river during his period in exile.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was the first to launch a river journey to connect with the riverine community, while the main opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) had got former party MP Phoolan Devi’s mother Moola Devi to attend SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s rally in Kalpi, Jalaun.
The SP has also announced a statue in memory of Phoolan Devi.