Noida, April 6: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday tried to revive his people-friendly image as he had done during the last Lok Sabha elections, nine months ahead of the crucial Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh.
Modi was in Noida to launch the 'Stand up India' scheme to facilitate bank loans between Rs 10 lakh-Rs 1 crore to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women borrowers for setting up greenfield enterprises in the non-farm sector and the date of April 5 was chosen as it marks the birth anniversary of Dalit leader Babu Jagjivan Ram.
On the occasion, Modi hit out at the Congress saying Jagjivan Ram was never remembered earlier and he never received any acknowledgement during his lifetime. Besides eulogising the late Dalit leader, Modi also had an informal chat with local rickshaw-pullers and labourers at a tea shop set up besides the stage and reached the stage riding an e-rickshaw. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha, state Governor Ram Naik and others were also present during the chat. Over 5,000 people were given e-rickshaws in this event.
The prime minister said the poor and the Dalit can help transform the country if they get the right opportunity. He said his government is trying to create a situation where the job-seekers can become job-givers.
Modi is strongly aiming to repeat the BJP's 2014 show of grabbing 71 of 80 seats in UP. The saffron party had gained the Dalit vote-share in that election at the expense of Mayawati's BSP. This time, issues like suicide of Rohith Vemula in a univesity in Hyderabad have raised challenges for the BJP, which has been accused of being insenitive towards Dalits. Mayawati also looks strong to regain her Dalit votes in next year's Assembly elections.
In this situation, it has become very important for Modi to woo the Dalits so that his party succeeds in influencing them through the mantra of development as it had done in 2014.