Prime Minister Narendra Modi indirectly flagged off the campaigning for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls scheduled early next year through a busy itinerary in the politically crucial state.
The PM, who is the MP from Varanasi, attended an event of the differently abled people in his constituency and also flagged of a superfast train between Varanasi and New Delhi. He was scheduled to visit events associated with Dali icon B R Ambedkar later in the state capital.
Modi's Mahatma Gandhi moment
That Modi had a focus on a pro-people approach ahead of the next UP election was evident from his speech while addressing the differently abled in Varanasi.
The speech, which was being interpreted for the understanding of the audience, saw the PM stressing the term "Divyaang" (god-gifted ability) instead of "Viklaang" (physical inability).
He said the name by which we refer to something helps us have an idea about it. In that way, when we say "Viklaang", the natural consequence is that we look for the person's physical weakness.
If we say "Divyaang", the curiosity will be about the person's divine capacity. In this way we can change the mindset, said the PM.
Modi distributed aids and assistive devices among the "Divyaang" children on the occasion.
There was no doubt that Modi was looking to score a populist point there, but what made his effort different from the other politicians is that he took the route of Mahatma Gandhi to reach out to his constituency.
Just like the Mahatma who had years ahead replaced the word "untouchables" with "Harijans" (children of god) to shake up the society which would ultimately strengthen the idea of an integrated national identity against the colonial rule, Modi also went for a terminological betterment to win the goodwill ahead of a very important election.
For a repeat of 2014, BJP needs Dalits
Modi knows very well that for his party to repeat the 2014 Lok Sabha performance in UP where it had won 71 out of 80 seats, he needs to win the trust of the non-elites again.
Then, it was the shift of the Dalit base to the BJP which helped it come out with flying colours at the expense of Mayawati, whose BSP failed to win a single seat.
But the situation has changed a lot since then.
Scholar's death in Hyderabad a worry for BJP in UP now
The recent political row over the suicide of a Dalit scholar in a university in Hyderabad has put the BJP in a spot with two Union ministers, Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani facing serious flak over handling the issue. The saffron party will hope to overcome the effects of the Hyderabad issue fast so that its prospects in the UP polls, where the Dalit vote bank has a decisive say, don't face a serious threat.
But Modi made a clever gesture in Varanasi by focusing more on issues of development and governance than raking up a controversial issue from another state.
He might also have taken a cue from the campaign in the Bihar elections where he was accused of unnecessarily taking on the state leaders which might have also led to his party's defeat. In Varanasi, his focus was on people and not on the opponent parties perhaps to avoid unwanted controversy which could have marred his Mahatma Gandhi moment.