It is yatra time in election-bound Uttar Pradesh.
Come August, the BJP will simultaneously roll out poll chariots — special buses and light vehicles kitted out for public campaigns — from four corners, covering every nook and cranny of the state over the next three months.
“These four yatras will culminate at a central point, possibly Lucknow, after touring the state,” said a BJP functionary who didn’t wish to be identified. The rival Congress was the first off the block with a three-day, 600km yatra from Delhi to Kanpur, called “27 Saal, UP Behaal”. Launched last Saturday, it was the party’s attempt to gauge the public mood and shore up support ahead of next year’s assembly elections in the politically crucial state, in which the Congress has been out of power for 27 years.
The Congress plans 27 yatras across UP over the next one-and-a-half month, aiming to woo Brahmin and Muslim voters in particular. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, too, is planning a “Samajwadi Vikas Rath Yatra” to showcase the achievements of his government.
Details of the BJP rallies on wheels, which are conceived to connect with a large section of people, are expected to be finalized before the party state unit’s two-day executive meeting in Jhansi from August 6.
Saharanpur in western UP, Lalitpur in Bundelkhand, Sonbhadra and Ballia — both in eastern UP — have been tentatively identified as starting points for these yatras.
The BJP is the lone major party without a candidate for the chief minister’s post in the country’s most populous state, where the party won 71 of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 parliamentary polls, riding a Narendra Modi wave.
“We don’t want to delay these yatras for the party to take a call on the CM candidate. It will be the show of the party’s collective leadership, and could be tweaked if and when the party decides to project a CM candidate,” the BJP leader said.
The BJP has divided UP into six zones for organisational purposes, and each of these yatras will cover at least three of them.
“That means every zone will have at least two such yatras crossing through it. There were will be other activities before and after the yatra crosses a particular area. We need to create a buzz around the BJP, and galvanise workers,” the party functionary said.
Party leaders will be deployed to address public meetings in towns and villages; and bigger rallies in major cities during the yatra.
The BJP’s UP unit will approach veterans such as Union home minister Rajnath Singh, the party’s last chief minister in the state, and the party’s national president, Amit Shah, to join these yatras at important locations.
Singh, the party’s senior-most leader from UP, is among the prospective chief-ministerial candidates who is seen as someone who could lead the faction-ridden state unit.
Other prominent faces — Kalraj Mishra, Uma Bharti, Sanjeev Balyan, Varun Gandhi, and Yogi Adityanath — could also ride the poll chariots at some point. During these yatras, the BJP will showcase the “successful two years of the Modi government” at the Centre and the “lawlessness and under-development” in the state under the ruling Samajwadi Party.