Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Malaseri in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara today on the 1111th birth anniversary of Bhagwan Dev Narayan.
Though this visit has been organised by the culture ministry, it comes 10 months before the assembly election in Rajasthan.
Malaseri is the birthplace of Bhagwan Dev Narayan, greatly revered in the area, especially among the Gujjars, who are now an important source of support for the election for both the BJP and the Congress.
In the last election, the BJP had given tickets to nine people from the Gujjar community. They all lost as the Gujjar vote shifted to the Congress in the hope that Sachin Pilot would become the first Gujjar Chief Minister of Rajasthan.
But that expectation has been belied and PM Modi’s visit appears to be the BJP’s strategic outreach to Gujjars bank through a religious programme.
“The Prime Minister has undertaken a number of projects for religious and cultural restoration like the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Ujjain temple. Hopefully, something will be done for the Dev Narayan temple as well. We should not look at everything through a political lens,” Satish Poonia, BJP state president, told NDTV.
The Gujjars are about 9 per cent to 12 per cent of the population in the state and they are significant in 40 to 50 assembly seats in eastern Rajasthan.
The Gujjars have in the past launched violent protests for reservation and had recently threatened to block Congress leader Rahul Gandhi s entry into the state.
“What happened last time will not happen again. Last time, the Gujjars lost and now they have learnt their lesson. Of course we want Gujjar MLAs. Gujjars influence about 40 seats. Let’s see what the impact will be,” Vijay Bainsla, who has taken on the mantle of the Gujjar reservation movement after the death of his father, Colonel Kirori Singh, told NDTV at the Dev Narayan temple.
Sachin Pilot is an individual factor and it cannot repeat in every election, Mr Bainsla said.