NEW DELHI : With Dalit powerhouse Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav leading the opposition charge in Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked 15th Century mystic Sant Kabir's message of equality of all, above caste and religion, to set the tone for the BJP's campaign for 2019.
Maghar - a small, obscure town in the state - is no match for Varanasi, the oldest and holiest cities for Hindus, which became the heart of the party's 2014 campaign. But as the place where Sant Kabir breathed his last, Maghar became the backdrop of the BJP's message of inclusiveness at a time the party is battling accusations of neglecting caste and religious minorities.
"Sant Kabir did not believe in castes... he believed everyone is equal... We aim to take Kabir's wisdom to the masses and include it in shaping a New India," said the Prime Minister, after paying his respects to the saint on his 500th death anniversary.
"Those who talk of Samajwad and Bahujan are only concerned about how to wrest power... They will lie and harm the well-being of people just to come to power," the Prime Minister said after a sharp attack on the Congress. He reminded the people of the traditional rivalry between the two parties, alleging that they came together only to seek power.
"Those who couldn't stand the sight of the other are now standing shoulder to shoulder -- not for your benefit, but their personal gains by somehow coming to power. All they are interested in is how to loot and make money," he added.
Maghar is barely 30 km from Gorakhpur, the prestigious Lok Sabha seat where the BJP met the first of its string of defeats in by-elections in the state. The seat, held for five consecutive times by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, was lost in face of the united forces of Samajwadi Party and Mayawati in March.
Phulpur, held by Yogi Adityanath's deputy Keshav Maurya was lost as well. The party took another round of beating in May, with the loss of the parliamentary seat of Kairana and assembly seat Noorpur in face of a united opposition.