It’s little early to suggest that Keshav Prasad Maurya, Uttar Pradesh BJP chief, could become BJP’s CM pick, too, if the party does get the numbers it claims at the end of the bitterly fought seven-phased polls.
But there is no denying that Maurya is in great demand within the party’s UP unit having addressed more than 200 rallies so far – most by any BJP leader.
As the elections enter the final lap, the saffron strategists are hopeful of OBC consolidation, reason why Maurya’s party inked pacts with two east UP parties - Rajbhar packed Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and Kurmi dominated Apna Dal.
Rajbhars and Kurmis are among the non-Yadav OBC groups of which Mauryas - including Kushwaha, Shakyas and Sainis – are the second biggest OBC caste group after Yadavs.
“…yeh sochkar vote kijiyega ki aapka Keshav chunaav lad raha hain .. aapka samarthan nahi mila toh aapka Keshav kamjor hoga (remember you are voting for your Keshav who would be weakened if the candidate doesn’t win),” he tells the crowd in his well-attended public rallies in east UP.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP leaders used to tell people that Modi was contesting from each seat in UP. The decision to allow Maurya to use the same line for local polls has its own meaning. It also indicates BJP might have learnt its lesson from the Bihar debacle where its inability to project a local face was among the reasons that led to its defeat.
So while PM Narendra Modi, an OBC, is party’s lifeline - fuelling BJP’s high-pitched campaign through mega rallies - Maurya is party’s local-OBC pick, one who sold tea as a child as Modi did and one who packs his oratory with development punch.
His association with Vishva Hindu Parishad provides the desired Hindutva push making him a complete package tailored to appeal to both upper castes and the most backward.
Maurya plays to the plan raising the slogan “beti-beti ek saman, Hindu ho ya Musalman (all daughters are equal whether Hindu or Muslim),” in his rallies after talking of SP’s government’s appeasement policy. At his other rally in Saidpur where party’s UP Dalit leader Vidya Sagar Sonkar is contesting, Maurya promises to shut down ‘qatlkhanas’ (slaughter houses) and provide milch animals to poor and landless.
“People now say Akhilesh-Rahul tum sangharash karo, hum Modiji ke saath hain (Akhilesh-Rahul you struggle, we are with Modi),” he says mocking at the alliance.
BSP chief Mayawati’s charge that BJP’s inability to project a CM face proves it’s weak, divided and worried gets him angry. “She should concentrate on how many MLAs are finally winning on her party ticket. She lost the polls the day she embraced mafia turned politician Mukhtar Ansari,” he says.
The BJP has fielded mafia turned politician Brajesh Singh’s nephew Sushil Singh, a sitting lawmaker from Sakaldiha that borders Saiyadraja from where he is now contesting against BSP’s Vineet Singh, recently booked on extortion charges and SP’s Manoj Singh, who won the 2012 UP polls here as an independent after defeating Brajesh.
Maurya makes a passionate appeal to help Sushil win before rushing in his five-seater helicopter to another rally. “Vikas ke liye laxmi chahiye aur laxmiji cycle aur haathi par baithkar nahi aati, woh toh kamal ke phool par baithkar aati hain (money is required for development and laxmiji or the goddess of wealth doesn’t come on cycle and elephant but on a lotus),” he says to cleverly market BJP’s lotus symbol among his largely backward audience.
In his rallies, Maurya also says a BJP government would inquire into all cases of corruption during BSP and SP rule and even send “Akhilesh and Mayawati” to jail. In all his rallies he has also been referring to SP-Cong alliance leaders as “gappu and pappu”. The BJP has been attempting to run down Rahul Gandhi by calling him ‘Pappu’ but has now coined ‘Gappu’ (one who makes tall claims) for Akhilesh.