In election campaign push, BJP packs off Hindi-speaking ministers to UP
Almost all ministers who can speak Hindi have been packed off to Uttar Pradesh, where the party is trying to replicate its performance of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and regain prominence in state politics after being sidelined by regional players.Updated: Feb 23, 2017 19:50 IST
As the Uttar Pradesh election enters the final lap, the BJP is giving it all.
Almost all ministers who can speak Hindi have been packed off to Uttar Pradesh, where the party is trying to replicate its performance of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and regain prominence in state politics after being sidelined by regional players.
On poll duty, four senior ministers — JP Nadda, Piyush Goyal, Smriti Irani and Narendra Singh Tomar — were all staying in a luxury hotel in Lucknow two days ago, sources said.
Voting was on for 53 seats, including those in Rae Bareli, the parliamentary constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in the fourth phase on Thursday.
The ministers are supplementing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts who has increased the number of poll rallies he would address in India’s largest state.
The competition is stiff and stakes high.
The ruling Samjwadi Party has for the first time gone into polls with a partner, the Congress. Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party is keen to make a comeback in the state.
Home minister Rajnath Singh, who hails from Uttar Pradesh and seen as a potential chief ministerial candidate, has been crisscrossing the state for several weeks now.
He had a busy Wednesday as he visited Tarabganj, Sahajnava, Ghanghata, Isouli and Sultanpur among other places. He, too, has been camping in Lucknow.
Small industries minister Kalraj Mishra, a prominent Brahmin face from Uttar Pradesh, was busy campaigning in Jalalpur, Kapilvastu and Mahadeva.
While only a few senior ministers campaigned in Goa, Uttarakhand and Punjab, which voted earlier this month, UP is a different ball game.
A sense of urgency is palpable and the party is mobilising all its resources. It even shifted its polls cell, operated by mid-rung leaders, from Delhi to the state capital Lucknow.
“Only one senior person has stayed back in Delhi. Everyone else is in Lucknow,” a source in the party said.
For the BJP, the outcome in UP will decide the direction its government will take at the Centre. A win in the bellwether state will embolden it to go ahead with economic reforms.
The party wants to put the bruising defeat in Bihar behind it and as Rajnath Singh told HT “UP will compensate for the loss in Bihar”.
It will also help improve the ruling coalition’s tally in the Rajya Sabha, where it is in minority, and put it in a more comfortable position ahead of the presidential poll in July.
Poll duties, however, are not at the cost of the government work. On Wednesday, all ministers were in the Capital for a cabinet meeting.
The party will be missing the services of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, a good orator and a crowd-puller, who is recuperating from a surgery. Otherwise, all senior ministers are taking turns to the campaign roster.
“The maximum campaign duty naturally has been given to people who belong to the state,” a source said.
The outcome of the push will be known on March 11 when results of all the five state polls, including Uttar Pradesh, will be declared.
First Published: Feb 23, 2017 13:43 IST