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BJP wooing UP boatmen to sail through Lok Sabha polls

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: March 1, 2019  | 13:32 IST

By Arunav Sinha Lucknow, Mar 1 (PTI) The BJP seems to be wooing the boatmen of UP to sail through the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi praising them during his recent Allahabad visit and Amit Shah opting for the river route to attend a party programme in Ghazipur. According to party leaders, the boatmen community is spread evenly across the state and constitutes nearly 13 per cent of the electorate. "Some of the major sub-castes of the boatmen community are Nishad, Bind, Mallah, Kewat, Kashyap, Dhuria, Raikwar, Dheemar, Batham, Manjhi and Saini. "As far as Lok Sabha seats are concerned, the community can swing the poll fortune in around 20 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state," said UP Backward Class Finance and Development Corporation chairperson Baburam Nishad. Prior to taking up this charge, he was the vice-president of the BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit. Some other party leaders said the affinity for the boatmen also stem from the fact that it was a Nishad candidate, fielded by the Samajwadi Party, which had defeated the BJP in Gorakhpur bypolls. "Some of the Lok Sabha seats, where the boatmen and fishermen community could swing the polls are Firozabad, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Kairana, Machhlishahr and Jaunpur," Baburam Nishad said. In Ghazipur, Phulpur, Sitapur, Jalaun, Fatehpur, Unnao, Gorakhpur, Ballia and Deoria the Nishad community has a significant presence. Modi, while addressing the Swachh Kumbh, Swachh Aabhaar programme in Allahabad on February 24, had described himself as the boatmen's 'pradhan sevak'. "Boatmen play an important role during Kumbh. There is a strong relationship between Prayagraj and boatmen. They are the dedicated soldiers of Maa Ganga. Without them, the Ramayana of Lord Ram is incomplete," the prime minister had said. "Lord Ram, by whose benevolence everyone's boat sails through, his boat was ferried by our naavik friends. I share a deep relationship with you... You call yourself 'Gangaputra', I have come on the call of Maa Ganga to serve you," he had said. Shah, in his speech at a village in Ghazipur had mentioned that he reached the venue on a boat. Referring to the provisions in the interim budget of the Centre, Baburam Nishad said in order to provide sustained and focused attention towards development of fisheries sector, the government has decided to set up a separate fisheries department. He also claimed that the BJP has paid special attention for the upliftment of the boatmen community. Slamming the previous BSP and SP governments, Baburam Nishad alleged that they did not carry out any actual welfare activity for the targeted beneficiaries, but doled out money without any verification. However, Sanjay Nishad, the president of Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal (NISHAD) claimed that the BJP "failed" to fulfil the promises made to the boatmen and fishermen before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. "The Nishad community wants education and employment. We want to rise above the boats, ponds and fishes," he said. Sanjay Nishad also said that if the BJP is so much concerned about the welfare of the boatmen and fishermen, then a fisheries ministry should have been set up. "The fisheries department comes under the agriculture ministry. If a separate ministry for fisheries is made, it will certainly help the fisherman community," he said. PTI NAV NSD NSD

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