New UP BJP president Keshav Prasad Maurya, 47, who carries the tag of being a Hindutva hardliner, on Tuesday made it clear that the 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls would be fought on the issue of ‘vikas’ (development) and not ‘mandir’ (temple).
“Temple isn’t going to be the issue in UP polls but development surely will,” Maurya said, interacting with journalists at the BJP head office in Lucknow on Tuesday, barely a day after taking charge of the post which he got because of his ‘humble background’, OBC caste and the strong RSS-VHP connection.
Maurya said that beginning from Allahabad, he was going to undertake statewide tours from Wednesday. He would give these tours a break around April 24 when he plans to sit down to finalize his team with whose help he plans to realise Mission 265 plus.
The BJP has never won 265 seats in UP. Since 2002, its graph has been falling regularly – 88 in 2002 to 51 in 2007 and an embarrassing 47 in 2012.
He ducked a query on whether the party plans to project a CM face in UP. “That is for the party high command to decide. My job is to help the party win at least 265 and more seats in UP,” he said.
Now that the BJP has settled for an OBC as its state chief, sources say the party high command is busy studying the prospect of projecting an upper caste leader as the party’s face in the UP polls. But the party hasn’t made up its mind on the issue so far.
During his UP visits, Maurya is expected to connect with non-Yadav backward castes in the state. These OBC castes form nearly 32% of UP’s electorate.
Maurya, a first-time Lok Sabha MP from Phulpur in Allahabad, again said that the criminal cases against him were political in nature.
“Now as my party and I take to the streets on people-centric issues, you may see more cases against my name. But I am not bothered. I will continue to fight for the common man,” he said. A section in the BJP feels that Maurya’s appointment would sully the party image.
Mauryas are a big OBC group which is not known to bear any loyalty to any major party in Uttar Pradesh; one of the reasons why the BJP chose to go with Maurya, ignoring several seasoned campaigners who were vying for the post.