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Express News Service

LUCKNOW: Call it BJP’s saffron rub-off: Come UP polls and you would see only the hues of Hindutva this time. Months ahead of the elections, the perception so far is that most Uttar Pradesh parties are jostling for space for claiming a share of the Hindu identity.

Priyanka Gandhi drove the message home when she recently visited Varanasi, the constituency of PM Modi. The first thing she did was a trip to the Kashi Vishwanth temple. Then she hopped to Durga Kund and offered prayers to the fearsome Hindu Goddess.

After launching her party’s Kisan Nyay Yatra, the Congress leader landed at Rohania with her forehead smeared with sandalwood paste. She began with shlokas from Durga Saptshati proclaiming that she was on a fast on the fourth day of Navratri.

The Congress had started out with its ‘soft Hindutva’ approach in 2017 at the time of the Gujarat Assembly polls. Rahul Gandhi had gone on temple hopping, claiming himself to be a ‘janeudhari Hindu’. “People would have accepted a natural rendition of ‘ya devi sarva bhuteshu’ – mantras chanted for various goddesses. But these came from Priyanka, evoking an impression that it was meant to impress the voters,” says Prof AK Mishra, a political scientist.

But guess who is the latest to join the Hindu appeasers? It is BSP chief Mayawati. At her first election rally in Lucknow on October 9, she vowed not to stop the ongoing development works at religious towns of Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura, if voted to power. “Mayawati surprised everyone. She made it clear that her social engineering plank this time has the religious heft,” says political commentator JP Shukla.

In the last two-three months, the BSP has conducted around 75 Prabuddh Sammelans (intellectual conferences) focusing on the Brahmins, starting the series from Ayodhya. Party general secretary Satish Mishra, while addressing the meetings, has promised to speed up the construction of the grand temple in Ayodhya.

The SP isn’t much behind. Party chief Akhilesh Yadav launched his ‘Vijay Yatra’ on Tuesday from the banks of the Ganga in Kanpur. Earlier, addressing a public gathering in Saharanpur on Saturday, Akhilesh referred to the holy Bhagavad Gita.

Akhilesh too has been on the temple run from Kamadgiri in Chitrakoot, Vimalnath temple at Farrukhabad and Buddha temple at Shravasti. The Aam Aadmi Party, which is entering the Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll fray for the first time, also began its campaign from Ayodhya.

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