BJP Begins UP Assembly Poll Preparations Without Big Ideas

BJP’s preparation for the UP polls, due next year, began on a lacklustre note on Wednesday, writes Sharat Pradhan.

4 min read

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP seems to be in disarray as the party struggles to reinvigorate its cadres. (Photo: IANS/ Altered by <b>The Quint</b>)

The much hyped Samarpan Diwas was observed by each of the BJP’s 90 organisational and 1,460 divisional units across Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday. There is no doubt that the exercise was intended to reinvigorate the party’s rank and file well before the country’s most populous state goes to polls 11 months from now. But what was glaringly evident is the half-baked effort behind the move that was undertaken especially on the party’s foundation day – April 6.

While the salient idea behind the move was to take the party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message to the grassroots level in rural UP, any concrete and meaningful plans in that direction did not appear to be in sight. Modi is all set to woo the Dalits with the launch of focused development programmes on Babasaheb Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14. Yet very little appears to have been done to invoke compassion for the downtrodden castes among the upper caste-centric leadership of the party.

Party’s Contradictory Moves

Also, while the ostensible message from the highest level was to follow Modi’s much talked about sabka saath, sabka vikas policy, there was another Hindu hardline lobby that was all set to move heaven and earth to adopt a communal line. Led by the likes of Muzaffarnagar MLA Sangeet Som, who was among the key accused in the riots that rocked the town and its four adjoining districts in 2013, and Yogi Adityanath, the party’s rabid saffron-clad MP from Gorakhpur, they stuck to their guns and left no stone unturned to stoke the communal fire every time they get a chance to do so. This time their focus would be rural UP.

Currently, this sharp contradiction to Modi’s sabka saath, sabka vikas call was visible in the insolent voices of widely known lumpen elements in the party. And joining them in their mission was senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who has taken another route to keep the Ayodhya embers alive at a time when state assembly elections are due.

Swamy has moved the Supreme Court seeking day-to-day hearing in the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmbhoomi case that has been pending before the apex court since the Allahabad High Court ordered division of the disputed ancient religious site into three parts in 2010.

Sure enough, such contradictory moves come only after a nod from the highest think tank of the party -- the RSS headquarters in Nagpur.


Half-Hearted Attempts

  • BJP’s ‘Samarpan Diwas’ intended to reinvigorate the party rank and file before UP goes to polls next year.
  • Party speaking in two voices – while there is echo for development, leaders such as Subramanian Swamy trying to rake up Ramjanmabhoomi case.
  • The strategy seems to be to adopt a two-pronged approach for consolidation of votes in BJP’s favour.
  • Party seems to be fraught with indecision as well with several names popping up as potential CM candidate.

BJP President Amit Shah being blessed by an elderly man during a public programme on the occasion of the BJP’s foundation day at Mavalankar Hall in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Photo: PTI)
BJP President Amit Shah being blessed by an elderly man during a public programme on the occasion of the BJP’s foundation day at Mavalankar Hall in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Photo: PTI)

Spreading the Word

The strategy therefore appears to be quite clear – while the serious party leadership would formally toe Modi’s  well-orchestrated sabka saath, sabka vikas line, a small but vocal section of the second and third-line leadership would be systematically allowed to chant for the Ayodhya temple.

If some insiders are to be believed, the strategy was to be followed with this Samarpan Diwas , as a part of which party functionaries had already fanned out in their respective earmarked areas of operation. “They are expected to spread the message of the party down to the villages where people need to know all that the Modi government has done for them,” says state BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak.

These functionaries will also raise funds for the party by collecting individual contributions, which he feels would imbibe the feeling of closer involvement with the party’s mission.
BJP spokesman, Vijay Bahadur Pathak

A plan was underway to ensure the presence of the party’s 71 Lok Sabha members in every district from where they would monitor the tasks assigned to lower functionaries at the village level.

BJP leaders, including Union ministers Mahesh Sharma and Manoj Sinha, during a party meeting in Lucknow on April 1, 2016. (Photo: IANS)
BJP leaders, including Union ministers Mahesh Sharma and Manoj Sinha, during a party meeting in Lucknow on April 1, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Choosing a CM Candidate

However, even as the entire focus was on the forthcoming assembly election, the party was yet to take a final call on a face that could be projected as the potential chief minister. Significantly, some senior leaders of consequence were not prepared to be projected as CM candidate. 

Earlier, rumour mills churned out stories about Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh being entrusted with the leadership of the UP campaign. But with Singh choosing to play safe and shying away from the responsibility – which could be a political trap for him – the focus, of late, was on a relatively middle-rung leader Manoj Sinha, the Union Minister of State for Railways.

More recently, the spotlight shifted to Sinha, who was busy projecting himself as the man who had expanded the railway network in UP. His proximity to both Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah was also an asset for him.

There were other contenders for the top job and Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma’s name was pretty high on the list. He too was understood to have cultivated close proximity to both Modi and Shah ever since he was made in-charge of the party’s Gujarat affairs.

If the BJP bigwigs are unable to take the final call on the CM nominee, then least of all, they would bring about a change in the party’s state leadership as the current incumbent Laxmikant Bajpai had long before been sounded to make way for a new state president. With the Samarpan Diwas having marked the commencement of the poll exercise, sure enough, these questions cannot remain unanswered for long.

(The writer is a Lucknow-based senior journalist)

Also read:

BJP’s Rout in MLC Polls, a Sign of Disillusionment Among Voters

UP Panchayat Poll: Is this Mayawati’s Comeback?

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