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BJP pins its hopes on star power as Uttar Pradesh civic polls draw closer

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to use several star campaigners, including chief minister Yogi Adityanath and Union as well as state cabinet members, in the run-up to the elections.

lucknow Updated: Nov 01, 2017 09:59 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
BJP,Yogi Adityanath,Uttar Pradesh civic polls
The BJP’s civic poll campaign in Uttar Prades will be led from the front by chief minister Yogi Adityanath.(Shyam Sharma/ HT)

The tenor of the Uttar Pradesh civic polls, to be held by November-end, is all set to be amped up.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to use several star campaigners, including chief minister Yogi Adityanath and Union as well as state cabinet members, in the run-up to the elections. Consequently, the electoral battle – traditionally fought on local issues such as power, roads and water – is likely to witness a whole new level of intensity.

With this, Adityanath will become the first Uttar Pradesh chief minister to campaign for state civic body polls. The move may force rival parties to intensify their campaigns too.

“We want to win all the polls, from panchayat to Parliament, in keeping with the directive of party chief Amit Shah. We will sweep these polls too,” said state BJP leader Harish Srivastava.

As many as 198 nagar palika parishads and 438 nagar panchayats, besides 16 municipal bodies (including the newly formed Ayodhya and Mathura corporations), are slated to go to the polls. Unwilling to leave anything to chance, the BJP has already decided to send Adityanath and a host of other star campaigners – including Union minister Smriti Irani; actor-turned-MP Hema Malini; deputy chief ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma; and firebrand orator Uma Bharti – on the campaign trail.

The state opposition, however, has a different take on the ruling party’s decision. “This reflects worry in the BJP camp. We can outdo the BJP in star power if needed, but a final decision in this regard will have to be taken by the party leadership,” said senior Samajwadi Party leader Ram Asrey Vishwakarma.

Following a string of political reverses, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has decided to contest the civic polls on the party symbol for the first time. The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has also taken a similar decision.

“This is the first major electoral battle after the 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls, and ahead of the 2019 general elections, which some believe would be advanced. So while the BJP wants to ensure that its cadres don’t get complacent, the Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP and the AAP are treating this as an opportunity to tease the ruling party ahead of the big battle for the Lok Sabha,” said Athar Siddiqui from the Centre of Objective Research and Development.

A senior BSP leader said their plan was to embarrass the ruling party in areas represented by its ministers. “If the BJP doesn’t do well in Ayodhya and Mathura, places that have just been accorded municipal corporation status, it will face considerable embarrassment. From what we gather, there is considerable resentment against the BJP in Mathura and Vrindavan over corruption charges faced by leaders who hold key positions in their nagar palika parishads (semi-urban bodies),” he added.

While BJP tickets are highly sought after, the increased demand also raises the prospect of dissenters working against the party because they have been spurned. However, party general secretary Ashok Kataria claimed there was little chance of rebellion on this account.

“Our people know that party tickets cannot be given to everybody. Being disciplined, they are aware of the fact that their responsibility as members of the ruling party is much more,” Kataria said.

First Published: Nov 01, 2017 09:50 IST