UP Assembly Election 2022: Why Mathura is likely to assume political significance ahead of polls

The focus on the pilgrim town comes after the saffron party suffered a rude shock in the recently-held local body elections where it managed to win only eight of the 33 seats

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. AFP

The Bharatiya Janata Party is truly leaving no stone unturned in its attempt to win the Assembly elections, scheduled for early next year, in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

Among their many plans to win the state is the development of Mathura, along the lines of Ayodhya, which could be perceived as the party’s attempts of cornering the Hindu vote.

Let’s take a look at what the BJP has in plan for Mathura and what could be the likely outcome on the UP Assembly polls.

What BJP has in store for Mathura

On 10 November, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that now Mathura city would also be transformed into a grand pilgrimage city like Ayodhya and every festival will be celebrated in the same way as it is celebrated in Ayodhya.

He made the comment while inaugurating the Braj Mahotsav, a 10-day programme to promote Braj culture, its inherent spirituality and specialised handicrafts.

He also said that various schemes launched by the Uttar Pradesh Braj Teerth Vikas Parishad would usher in a sea change in development of Braj, with Mathura at its epicenter.

Additionally, the Aditynath-led government has also announced that the state will provide free WiFi services to four cities — Agra, Firozabad, Mathura and Aligarh.

A News18 report quoting a senior administrative said that Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is setting up WiFi units at every 500 metres in Agra, Mathura, Firozabad, and Aligarh.

In Ayodhya’s footsteps

Ayodhya has changed drastically ever since the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Babri Masjid case.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself performed the ‘bhoomi pujan’ on 5 August 2020 for a grand temple, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been frequently visiting the holy town, trying to keep the issue alive.

The BJP has also expedited several development projects. Experts state that the construction of the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya will be a key issue in the Assembly polls in the state and the saffron party will milk the issue to strengthen its connect with the vote bank.

In fact, the Narendra Modi has earmarked Rs 20,000 crore for the development of Ayodhya to transform the temple town of Uttar Pradesh.

One must note here that since taking office, Adityanath has visited Ayodhya over 30 times. The chief minister also has spent generously on Ayodhya — according to the last budget, Rs 140 crore was sanctioned for the all-around development of Ayodhya, Rs 100 crore for beautification, Rs 300 crore for the road construction, Rs 101 crore for the airport.

Why the focus on Mathura

The BJP’s focus on Mathura is due to two primary reasons. Let’s try to understand this and decode how it benefits the saffron party.

First off, the BJP suffered a rude setback in the recently-held local body elections. In the polls held in May, BJP only managed to secure eight of the 33 seats in Mathura, while Mayawati’s BSP won the maximum ¬— 13 seats.

The panchayat polls are seen as precursors to the Assembly elections. The results are bound to raise concern for the BJP and hence, the development plans can be seen as a balm provided to the people of the pilgrim town.

Secondly, by appealing to the Hindus of the pilgrim town of Mathura, especially the saints and seers – who hold sway over the people — the BJP is strengthening its core vote bank of the Hindus.

Don’t forget that as per 2011 data, the Hindus constitute 79.73 percent of the population.

Another reason why Mathura is being eyed by the BJP is the party’s attempt of further upping their presence in the west of the populous state. It also draws attention away from the crucial east UP region, consisting of Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi and Adityanath’s political backyard of Gorakhpur.

The BJP stormed to power in the 2017 Assembly polls — winning 312 of the 403 seats and putting all other parties to shame.

However, some experts believe that winning 2022 isn’t just a matter of prestige and pride for the party.

It is believed that the UP results will directly affect the presidential polls that too will take place next year. Since presidential elections take into account the votes of both MPs and MLAs, every legislative seat the BJP wins in these assembly elections will be crucial, especially given it has lost a number of allies over the past couple of years.

With inputs from agencies

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