Led by AB Vajpayee, LK Advani, and Rajnath Singh, senior BJP leaders go into a huddle for the next three days in Lucknow where after a gap of 15 years, the party is showcasing its national executive, followed by its ‘supreme body’, the national council.
Unlike on previous occasions when internal tussles have overshadowed hopes for a revival, the BJP leaders this time look at the conclave as the harbinger for the party’s fortunes ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections early next year.
The BJP is also counting luck in Punjab and Uttaranchal where Assembly polls are due early next year. The party leaders believe that in all the three states, the anti-incumbency will work in favour of their party and against the Congress – its principal rival.
Significantly, Lucknow and Uttar Pradesh have been home for a galaxy of BJP leaders, particularly for Vajpayee and Rajnath Singh, for both of whom the conclave is specially meaningful.
For Vajpayee who celebrates his 83rd birthday on December 25, the Lucknow jamboree is in his own Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP is going all out to hold a ‘massive rally’ at Ambedkar maidan on December 24.
The venue is important because, as an aide of Rajnath Singh put it, no party other than Mayawati-led BSP has ‘dared’ to hold a rally in the sprawling maidan (with an estimated crowd capacity 2 lakhs) in recent times.
For Rajnath Singh who was UP Chief Minister, it is a high point in his political career – to be anointed national party chief in home territory, which is one of the main agenda of the BJP national council.
Singh gets a fresh period of three years from February, after having completed one year in office since he took over from Advani who was forced to exit by the RSS for an ideological deviation by praising Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a secularist during his visit to that country.
Though in the last one year the BJP lost its government in Jharkhand, Singh’s stewardship has witnessed the party’s success in the UP civic bodies elections.
The BJP won nine of the 12 mayor elections - unheard of success since it was mauled in the 2002 assembly polls, followed by the Lok Sabha elections in 2004.
The victory has revived hopes among UP leaders that the BJP’s case is not lost as believed by a majority of the rank and file.
But the tough challenge for BJP in UP is that it must be able to retain at least 60 of the 80 assembly seats it has in its kitty now. UP has a House of 403 seats. The conclave is set to go threadbare into the nitty-gritty of winning as many seats as possible with the RSS throwing its weight behind the party.
BJP leaders believe that the RSS’ directive to stress on the Hindutva ideology is bringing dividends even if the Ram temple issue does not promise potential for a revival.
They say the Congress-led UPA’s political policies are seen as appeasing the Muslims and soft on terrorism and security while economic ones are hard on the common man. Consequently, there is room for hope that its traditional voters may return to back the BJP.
The conclave will see at least two resolutions that will accuse the Manmohan Singh government of "appeasing" the minorities for votes, heaping hardships on the common man by "failing" to contain price-rise, and “neglecting” farmers in the face of an agricultural crisis.
No BJP leader expects any open discussion on the leadership issue as that is not the party style. Only two days ago, Vajpayee made it clear to the BJP leaders that he was yet to call it a day and would be "around" for a long time to come.