When Union home minister Rajnath Singh recently spoke about ‘the end of BJP’s 14-year-long exile from the state in 2017’ at the Saharanpur rally, not many were convinced as they had witnessed the decimation of national parties by the two dominant regional forces in the assembly elections.
But the party’s new game plan to present itself as the only alternative to the Samajwadi Party government, revealed by national president Amit Shah, seems to have worked. The BJP is back in reckoning and those who dismissed it as ‘out of the race’ have now forecast a triangular contest between the SP, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and BJP. And the renewed belligerence has drowned voices demanding parties project a chief ministerial face, at least for now.
Political analyst Dr Badri Narain said, “BJP has consolidated its position among non-Yadav OBCs and a section of MBCs. However, as of today, Mayawati remains a frontrunner.” Senior politician Om Prakash Sharma from West UP and Rajesh Singh from the east agreed. Still, BJP’s 267+ mission seems to be a tall task, considering the 47 seats it won in 2012.
Amidst rising political temperatures in the state, the party’s multi-pronged strategy is clear. First, weaken the main rivals, SP and BSP, by highlighting their weaknesses. Placards at Saharanpur read, ‘No goonda raj, no corruption in UP’. And BJP has a different strategy for both the regional parties.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s non-controversial image and focus on development had substantially improved the sagging image of a fiefdom-plagued government. The BJP’s plan is to hammer on his sensitive nerve - law and order. So far, Mayawati, with an image of an iron lady, had been the only one to gain from SP’s weakness.
On the other hand, BJP is striking at the very roots of the BSP’s vote base by poaching Mayawati’s Dalit vote bank. Besides winning over prominent Dalit faces from the BSP, the BJP leadership is also organising Dalit conventions. But, according to Dr Narain, it may not pay electoral dividends.
However, reports from west UP suggest the changing mood of young Dalits, who have been lured to RSS shakhas in a big way.
The second is the polarisation of the state on communal lines with separate labs operating in different regions, starting from an already polarised west UP, where the latest forensic report escalated the beef row with the Bisada panchayat giving a 20-day ultimatum to the state government to book Mohammad Ikhlaq’s family.
Notwithstanding the academic debate on freedom to eat the food of choice, cow remains a soft spot in many Hindu homes in the countryside.
Moving from West to East, it’s Ayodhya .The temple cauldron is kept simmering by the BJP leadership, aiding in polarisation of the area often described as the Muslim belly of the state. Move ahead and one reaches communally sensitive Gorakhpur, where Mahant Adityanath is being projected as the Rama of UP as well as BJP’s CM face. Political expert Rajesh Singh feels the BJP can turn the tables on BSP in its eastern stronghold by projecting Adityanath as the CM candidate.
BJP’s other strategies include energising its own rank and file, stitching an alliance of non-aligned castes, and projecting PM Narendra Modi’s development model. For the first time, BJP’s national convention will be held in Allahabad -- the citadel of Nehru-Gandhi - suiting their plan for a Congress-mukt India.
Apparently the BJP is banking on the support of the Dalits, Kurmis, Brahmins, Thakurs and Jats, reflected in the appointments of regional heads by UP chief Keshav Maurya.
As for the cadre, Shah has already started booth-level dialogues and by the time the party’s parliamentary board meets to decide candidates, he would have interacted with more than a lakh booth-level workers.