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Former UP CM’s sell-by date is over

india Updated: Jan 21, 2009 00:23 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times
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To what extent will Kalyan Singh’s departure harm the BJP’s prospects in the coming Lok Sabha poll? BJP spokesmen are right in saying it will hardly have any impact.

Kalyan Singh has never been the leader he once was after he returned to the BJP in 2004. (He had quit in 2000 after a bitter falling out with then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.)

“Kalyan Singh’s USP was that he is a backward caste Lodh, in a party which has few backward caste leaders,” said a senior BJP leader. The Lodhs are a dominant caste in about 11 Lok Sabha constituencies in Western Uttar Pradesh. But in a number of by elections in West UP after Kalyan’s return, the party fared worse than it had done when he had set up a rival party and was opposing it.

The final comedown was the BJP’s performance in the last assembly elections in May 2007, which Mayawati won. With Kalyan Singh projected as its chief ministerial candidate, the party bagged only 52 of 403 seats. Again the party had done better in the 2002 poll when Kalyan Singh was not a member!

BJP leaders have also grown weary too of Kalyan’s repeated attempts to use his position to promote his family, or his close associates like Rajya Sabha member Kusum Rai. “Even your own caste won't back you if you only keep pushing your own family,” noted a BJP functionary.

Nor is allying with the Samajwadi Party likely to help the political fortunes of Kalyan or the SP. Muslims, one of the core support groups of the SP, can never forget that it was Kalyan Singh as UP’s chief minister who facilitated the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992.