The BJP’s script for Uttar Pradesh was more than just about securing the third position after the SP and the BSP. Rather, it was about reinventing the party’s future ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
It was about re-energising organisational machinery and, certainly, about putting a stamp of authority to Nitin Gadkari’s quest to emerge the unchallenged arbiter of its destiny.
UP sends the largest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha. For anyone, who dreams to lead the country, UP is the first stop.
Gadkari went about earnestly taking complete charge of BJP’s campaign from day one, setting teams to cherry-pick candidates and not succumb to pressure tactics of UP stalwarts.
In this endeavour, Gadkari was backed by the BJP's parent body, the RSS, which put its entire network at work. Senior colleagues, including Arun Jaitely, Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj, chipped in to put their best.
The Sangh also encouraged Gadkari to assume full control and adopt a no-nonsense approach. It encouraged him not to submit to the whims of Hindutva poster boy, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who stayed out of the campaign.
According to BJP strategists, Gadkari’s target was a decent 70 or 80 and, try possibly, for a figure close to 100. Without Modi’s help, it would have sent a strong signal to him that the party could sometimes do without his hardline image. That was not to be. As the SP bandwagon rolled on beyond 200, the BJP could not even touch its 2007 tally.
What went wrong? At first count, as BJP leaders realised, a clear absence of a solid vote bank, like that of Yadavs and Muslims for the SP and Dalits for the BSP, was undoing their efforts.
The upper castes, particularly the Brahmins and Rajputs, did not switch loyalty en bloc from the BSP to the BJP and pitched for many SP nominees to their community.
More importantly, the BJP did not have a young face at the helm like SP’s Akilesh Yadav who carried the baton from his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Secondly, even though the Congress and the SP “over played” the Muslim card by promising quota in jobs and educational institutions beyond what the Constitution would allow, Hindu votes did not polarise in the BJP’s favour.