A sidelined leader who was once a close confidante of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged as the new ‘poster boy’ of the BJP in Gujarat, signalling growing dissent in the party after its debacle in the recent local body polls.
Posters carrying pictures of former party general secretary Sanjay Joshi and a call to bring the sidelined leader back to “save the party” have surfaced in constituencies of BJP chief Amit Shah and chief minister Anandiben Patel in Ahmedabad.
The local body polls, which saw the opposition Congress sweep rural Gujarat and also make visible dents in the BJP’s urban bastions, was seen as a referendum on the party’s state and central leadership.
The pro-Joshi posters with the message “Sanjay Joshi lao, BJP bhachao” (Bring back Sanjay Joshi to save the BJP) have been put up at public places in Shah’s constituency Naranpura and Patel’s constituency Ghatlodia.
Joshi, a close aide-turned-bête-noire of Modi, was removed from the party ahead of the BJP national executive meet in Mumbai in 2012 over a sex CD controversy.
Despite his reinstatement, the once powerful leader now remains sidelined in the BJP under the leadership of Modi and Shah.
“It is déjà-vu for the Gujarat BJP. Following losses in the by-elections in 2000 under the leadership of Keshubhai Patel, the party looked weak and Modi was brought in,” said a senior party leader, who is also Joshi’s sympathiser.
But under chief minister Anandiben Patel, who took over after Modi moved to Delhi as Prime Minister, the party “lost its rural ground for the first time in over a decade”, the leader said.
“The posters indicate that Gujarat BJP workers are feeling the need for a strong leader,” he said. Assembly elections in the state are due in 2017.
Joshi was, however, not available for comments.
The poster campaign came ahead of Anandiben Patel’s visit to Delhi, reportedly to cite the reasons for the defeat to the BJP’s parliamentary board. Many see it as signal by the disgruntled group to the party at a time when brainstorming over the defeat is still on.
The BJP, however, called it a handiwork of “others”, indicating political rivals.
“Nothing proves that it has been done by BJP workers. It was done in the dead of the night. It is a handiwork of others,” said state BJP vice-president IK Jadeja.
“There is no message for the party here. There is no discontent.”