Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday unveiled a statue of Deenbandhu Sir Chhotu Ram — a name that figures among the tallest but little-known leaders from Haryana. Prime Minister Modi’s move is bound to be seen through the lens of politics, especially when elections are around the corner.
And, the statue of Sir Chhotu Ram is no different. While polls in the state are few months away, the BJP may have started cementing its ground well in advance in Haryana. But, why does Sir Chhotu Ram matters to the BJP?
Sir Chhotu Ram — A leader that BJP needs
The statue of Sir Chhotu Ram is seen to be Modi’s efforts to woo Jat voters, who constitute over 25 per cent of the electorate in Haryana and have largely voted for Congress in the past. Jats are important to the saffron party as they are from upper cast and have significant presence in other states such as Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan — where the BJP appears to be losing ground ahead of elections in December 2018.
Through Chhotu Ram, the Prime Minister sent a message to those who could together decide the fate of any political party in Haryana: farmers, Jats and Dalits. Speaking on the occasion, PM Modi had said: “Sir Chhotu Ram was one of those social reformers who played very important role in building the nation. He was the voice of farmers, laborers, and oppressed people.”
Farmers are yet another key constituent for the saffron party. In the recent past, the party has faced many farmers agitations across the country including Haryana. PM Modi described Sir Chhotu Ram as the messiah of farmers and said that he was honored to get an opportunity to unveil his statue.
Haryana has been traditionally believed to be a Congress bastion and the BJP came to power in the state just four years ago. But in the last four years, the saffron party seems to have upset its core vote base — farmers and upper caste Jats, who think that the BJP is indulging in Dalit appeasement politics. Keeping this in mind, Modi also had to do some balancing act to keep his vote base intact. The emphasis on Chhotu Ram, thus, seemed apt.
Born in Punjab in pre-independent India, Sir Chhotu Ram is known for his work for farmers, the backward and downtrodden. He is also remembered for his work in the education sector, and for other social causes. He came from a very humble family which belonged to the peasants of the Jat community.