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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Ahead of bypolls, BJP embarks on ‘Mission Opposition’

lucknow Updated: Oct 10, 2019 00:12 IST

Congress’s Rae Bareli lawmaker Aditi Singh was in the news when she defied her party to attend the special session of the UP assembly convened by the Yogi Adityanath government on October 2.

The embarrassment for the party was all the more as it named her a star campaigner for the upcoming by-polls to 11 state assembly seats. The by-elections are scheduled on October 21.

Rakesh Singh, another Congress lawmaker from Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituency of party president Sonia Gandhi, has been praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi openly.

All this comes in the backdrop of BJP’s ‘mission rattle opposition’, which is as much about engineering defections/securing support of high impact opposition players as those whose recall value may not be as high.

Saleem Ahmad, for instance, isn’t a big opposition name in UP politics. Yet, his defection to BJP camp indicates that along with upper castes who pack the Govindnangar assembly segment of Kanpur, the party is also looking to expand its appeal among minorities.

The BSP had named Ahmad its mayoral candidate in Kanpur earlier and Mayawati cleared his candidature for the Kanpur Lok Sabha seat in 2014. “Whether or not minorities vote for us, he definitely helps in weakening opposition’s support and driving confusion and uncertainty in its ranks,” a BJP leader said.

Former MP Aashkaran Shankhwar, a Dalit, and Rajendra Sharma, a Brahmin leader from the Samajwadi Party, are not in the same league as former Samajwadi Party MPs Neeraj Shekhar, Sanjay Seth and Surendra Nagar, all of whom last month resigned their Rajya Sabha seats to join the BJP. They are now back in the Rajya Sabha as BJP MPs.

Nevertheless, Shankhwar and Sharma, bring with them local support of key caste groups that party hopes to cash in on in its bid to stump the opposition.

UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, the star campaigner for Maharashtra and Haryana polls, would campaign in UP by-polls for three days, covering roughly four by-poll seats each day on October 15, 16 and 18 along with defence minister Rajnath Singh, BJP’s working president JP Nadda and deputy chief ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma.

The BJP is also using its other initiatives – like awareness building measures on Article 370’s nullification – to connect with the opposition leaders as well as bureaucrats who were considered close to both the SP and the BSP.

“Yes, the BJP leaders did call on me to sell their point of view on Article 370 nullification in Kashmir. I listened to them. It was nice of them to reach out to me but I would reveal my point of view only to the party at the appropriate time,” said Abdul Mannan, a senior Congress functionary.

“Yes, I have heard that immediately after they met us, there were many who began speculating if I would switch over to the BJP too,” said Sukhram Singh Yadav, Samajwadi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP.

“We are approaching one and all, trying to build consensus on issues that are above politics,” said UP minister Nand Gopal Gupta ‘Nandi’ denying any political intent behind the ‘outreach’ initiatives.

But, opposition leaders also point out to what they call works of “BJP’s dirty tricks department” in seats like Rampur where the party is desperate to break the Samajwadi Party hold and, in Aligarh, where the RLD-SP candidate’s papers were rejected at the last minute.

UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh, an OBC (Kurmi), was in Aligarh to drum up support for party candidate in the Iglas seat. In this seat, the Samajwadi Party had decided to back the RLD candidate but at the last moment, the RLD-SP candidate Suman Diwakar’s nomination papers were rejected. “The BJP, out to make inroads in opposition camps, was aware that after the Samajwadi Party’s support we had become a threat for them. That’s why a conspiracy was hatched to stop me from contesting the elections,” she claimed.

First Published: Oct 09, 2019 21:47 IST

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