India’s nationalist opposition party taking leaf from Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s book to attract minority Muslim voters.

BJP AJE
A group of locals gather at a hall in a Shia area of Lucknow to show support for the BJP [Sonia Paul/ Al Jazeera]
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh – “If you have to change the fortunes of India, it must begin in Lucknow,” Narendra Modi, the opposition prime ministerial candidate, said at an election rally early in March.

His statement reaffirmed a popular saying in Indian politics: The road to New Delhi passes via Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous and politically most important state – Uttar Pradesh.

As the city goes to polls on April 30, the attention is on the constituency’s Muslims, who comprise about 22 percent of the 1.9 million voting population here.

The right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has remained a force here for decades, is making every symbolic gesture to attract the minority voters.

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Haunted by insecurity, relief camps for victims of communal riots in Uttar Pradesh witness spate of mass weddings.

Some 300 marriages are said to have taken place in the relief camps in Uttar Pradesh since the deadly riots [Yogesh Tiyagi, September 25]
Some 300 marriages are said to have taken place in the relief camps in Uttar Pradesh since the deadly riots [Yogesh Tiyagi, September 25]
The setting was unusual for marital bliss, but it was no deterrent for the dozen-odd couples who tied the knot last week in a mass wedding at a relief camp for riot victims in Muzaffarnagar.

Having fled communal violence that recently swept parts of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and left scores dead and thousands homeless, the newly married couples of Malakpur relief camp held hands together and vowed to make a fresh beginning.

Mass weddings are not uncommon in India, where community and religious leaders sometimes host them for poorer communities to help ease their financial burden.

But a spurt of mass weddings at relief camps sheltering thousands displaced by the riots is evoking contrasting emotions. Some hail them as efforts to rebuild lives. Local authorities, however, see them as unnecessary distractions.

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