Prime Minister Narendra Modi called him the Man of the Match for engineering the Bharatiya Janata Party’s spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha polls. But assembly by-elections have turned out to be a vastly different ballgame for BJP president Amit Shah with his party suffering setbacks on Tuesday – the third such instance in about two months after disappointing performances in Uttarakhand and Bihar.
Although the BJP put up a good show in West Bengal and Assam, the losses elsewhere allowed certain critics within the party to raise their voices. Senior leader Shatrughan Sinha, who failed to make it to the Union cabinet, called for serious introspection and said that the absence of veterans was probably hurting the party, sources said.
Other BJP leaders, however, dismissed this criticism saying that the results were not a reflection on Shah’s proven acumen as a strategist and will have no bearing on his stature or authority in the party. “These elections were not for change. We will win Maharashtra and Haryana. We will learn from these results and correct our mistakes,” said party secretary Shrikant Sharma.
What went wrong, though, was the perceived marginalisation of some satraps in Uttar Pradesh, mostly from the influential upper castes, and the fallout could not be contained despite the intervention of the RSS leadership, said sources.
The sidelining of leaders like Rajnath Singh and Varun Gandhi, for instance, did not go down well with their supporters. Gandhi, the BJP’s young face from UP, was unceremoniously dropped by Shah from his team, and his supporters turned cold this time. Similarly, rumours about the Prime Minister pulling up Singh’s son for some alleged misconduct made headlines in the media, antagonising the home minister and his associates.
Supporters of Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar Singh, the Moradabad MP who vacated the Thakurdwara seat, did not campaign for the party after his son was denied an assembly ticket.
The BJP did not showcase Narendra Modi’s development agenda or highlight the Akhilesh Yadav government’s failures in UP. The party focused on projecting Yogi Adityanath as its face in the campaign, allowing the so-called love jihad controversy to fester. This strategy backfired, said insiders.