In an effort to bring electorates from different castes and communities together to dine and discuss politics with an eye on their votes, the BJP is for the first time going to organise nine ‘khichdi panchayat’ across the Rampur Assembly constituency between November 26 and December 2 — ahead of the bypoll.
The polling for the Rampur Assembly constituency by-election is scheduled on December 5 and the canvassing for which ends on December 3. The constituency has 3.8 lakh voters with more than 55 per cent being Muslims.
Former Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is the brainchild behind the event and he will be present at all nine khichdi panchayats, according to BJP sources. Naqvi has already hit the campaigning trail for party candidate Akash Saxena and he is likely to hold talks with local Muslim clerics and intellectuals to get their votes. “It will not be a public meeting. People from all castes and communities will first have khichdi together and then they will hold discussions on the bypoll and the suitable candidate for their votes. There will be a ‘chunavi charcha’ at the khichdi panchayat,” said Naqvi speaking with The Indian Express. “Breaking the caste and community barriers, people will come together at a platform and unitedly discuss and decide about their votes. Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits and people from all castes and communities will be invited to the Khichdi panchayats in Rampur,” said the former MP from Rampur elucidating the objective behind the event. According to sources, the party has planned to gather 500 to 1,000 people at each panchayat.
The first khichdi panchayat will be held in Kakrahua village with a voter strength of 2,5000 — the maximum in the entire constituency. Almost 50 per cent of the voters in this village are Muslims. Local notables and leaders from different castes and communities, including Muslims and Sikhs, have been invited to the panchayat, said sources. BJP leaders in Rampur have been entrusted with the responsibility of getting them on board and seeking their votes for the BJP candidate.
The next khichdi panchayat will be held in Naugwan village on Sunday. “Considering the clout, the Muslim voters hold together and the significance of Dalit votes in the absence of the Bahujan Samaj Party, we will have our focus especially centred on the Muslim and Dalit voters at the panchayats,” said a BJP leader. The BSP and the Congress are out of the fray in the Rampur Assembly constituency — the pocket borough of Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan which he won 10 times, and his disqualification necessitated the bypoll. The dominance of Muslim voters in the Rampur Sadar Assembly seat has been a challenge for the BJP in the past, and it is now because Azam has fielded his loyalist Mohd Asim Raja as the SP candidate.