Uttar Pradesh: In the run-up to the 2022 assembly elections, the Vikashsheel Insaan Party (VIP), a constituent of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar, has decided to place a statue of late MP Phoolan Devi in 18 divisions of Uttar Pradesh in the hopes of capturing votes from the Nishad community, where Phoolan Devi was born.
The mallah (boatmen) caste, also known as Nishads, and other sub-castes in UP’s Other Backward Communities (OBC) make up 14% of the state’s population.
The VIP group, lead by Bihar’s animal husbandry minister Mukesh Sahni, had 18 similar 18-foot-tall sculptures erected.
The context of the practice is explained by Sahni: ‘Phoolan Devi is still alive in our thoughts for her struggles for the pride and prestige of mothers and sisters. We are celebrating July 25 as her martyrdom day from Bihar to UP and for this, we are going to install 18 idols of Phoolan Devi in UP and some in Bihar.’
‘I myself will be present in the programme at Varanasi on July 25 and the party will work to connect with society to realize the dreams of Phoolan Devi across the country,’ he added.
UP has a total of 403 assembly seats and over the years Nishads have become a significant electoral vote bank.
Sahni, who had previously said that his party will run for at least 165 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, stated that he intended to carry Phoolan Devi’s aspirations forward.
‘She wanted to bring the Nishad community on one platform [and ensure that] injustice is not done to them. She wanted them to achieve their position and for that, we had also formed the Phoolan Sena. If she would have been alive today, the Nishad community would not have lagged behind,’ he stated.
‘Right now, the party is concentrating on the 2022 UP elections,’ Sahni stated, explaining his desire to extend his party’s power. ‘We will run for 165 seats this time, and I am confident that in the 2024 general elections, we will have more MLAs in Uttar Pradesh and MPs from Bihar, UP, and Jharkhand.’
Sahni had previously hinted at a possible electoral coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh (BJP). In 2019, the party ran three seats in Bihar in an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress but came up empty-handed.