Is Brand Modi Affecting BJP’s Ability to Announce UP CM Candidate?
Only one brand can exist at a time, and the BJP seems to have chosen ‘Brand Modi’.
For the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, it is up to the political parties whether they want to project their chief ministerial candidate or not. The BJP, too, has been very cautious about this. They have avoided announcing the CM candidate in UP, Uttarakhand or Goa – a well thought-out move, it seems.
But before moving on to the upcoming assembly elections, let's take a look at the BJP's strategy in the previous ones. During the Assam assembly elections, the BJP had announced Sarbananda Sonowal as their CM candidate, which helped them immensely. During the Bihar elections, however, instead of announcing their CM candidate, they rallied around Narendra Modi's brand name, which resulted in the BJP losing the elections.
Even during the Delhi assembly elections, the BJP played a 'master stroke' by announcing Kiran Bedi as their CM candidate, but we all know how that turned out.
After these bitter-sweet experience, the party seems to be assessing the situation in each state separately and strategising accordingly. Whoever be the CM candidate, it is for sure that PM Modi and his party will only select a candidate based on merit.
Rajnath Not Right for CM?
Let's talk about UP first. There are rumours of Rajnath Singh being the CM candidate, but Singh is not too keen on taking on the role as it will take him away from his significant responsibilities from the Central government.
By putting him forward as the CM candidate, the party might get a much-needed boost to win the election in the state. But looking at the current scenario, the BJP might not risk it.
Although the party has many local leaders suitable for the post of CM, they have not zeroed in on a name yet.
Yogi Adityanath has, on several occasions, tried to portray himself as the CM candidate, but it seems that the party is not certain enough to declare it yet. The BJP would want to stay away from any right-wing ideology just before the elections. Same is the case with Varun Gandhi. Hence, neither is he in the good books of Narendra Modi faction nor Amit Shah's camp.
The party wants to reach to a collective consensus before moving forward with this, but that has not happened so far.
Currently, the BJP UP unit is more focused on attracting the non-Yadav OBC voters towards them. Neither Rajnath, nor Adityanath or Varun Gandhi make the cut.
Same Story in Uttarakhand
The BJP's stand is the same in Uttarakhand. In terms of a popular local leader, the BJP has the option of former CM Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri, but the party has two particular concerns – he has little contact with the Amit Shah camp, and secondly, the party does not want to put forth a candidate over 80 years of age as the CM face.
The BJP would also want to stay away from forming an alliance with a regional party.
Goa Is Next in Line
Goa is the first state which faces rebellion from a local RSS leader. The party is not projecting current Goa CM Laxmikant Parsekar as the next CM candidate. The reason being – Parsekar's performance hasn't been that impressive on which the party can campaign in the state.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had recently said that the Centre will soon elect someone from the cabinet for this job. Though he didn’t particularly mention former Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s name, Parrikar himself has not ruled out the possibility of returning to Goa. He just said, "It is to be seen."
Parrikar is a very important part of the Narendra Modi government. His performance as the Defence Minister has been quite impressive. It will be too early to comment about his return to Goa. The party might try to get votes based on Parrikar’s name alone.
So Why Is BJP on the Back Foot?
While all other parties are pitching their CM candidate, the BJP seems to be on the back foot.
Hilal Ahmad of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) gives two reasons for such a step.
In all three states, the BJP’s institutional framework has been extremely poor. According to the RSS, the cadre-based party has been going through a bad phase for the past three years. The dilemma faced by them because of this is understandable.
Nothing Can Be Bigger Than 'Brand Modi'
In 2014 there was a big change seen in the BJP’s approach. The party that had for so long worked according to the RSS’ ideology, was now focusing on Modi. The party looks dependent on ‘Brand Modi’ for the upcoming assembly election. According to Hilal Ahmed:
The most striking fact about branding is that only one brand can exist at a time. Clearly the party, which has kept ‘Brand Modi’ at the fore front, cannot take this risk.
As per the current condition of the BJP, this ambiguity could be effective. We will have to wait till 11 March to find out how the voters will respond to this.
(This article was first published in QuintHindi)
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