As candidate selection raises hackles, party will step up its campaign blitz in the State
Worried by dissensions and heartburn caused by candidate selection in Uttar Pradesh, Narendra Modi will step up the BJP’s campaign with 40-45 rallies to regain lost momentum in the battleground State.
The BJP had a head start in UP with Modi already having done seven mega rallies across the State. Communal polarisation following riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli this winter was expected to help the party’s prospects in western Uttar Pradesh and Modi’s candidature from Varanasi was to galvanise voters in 27 seats in the Poorvanchal region.
However, the momentum has dipped over the past week with the announcement of candidates. The party has announced candidates for 74 of the total 80 seats in UP. Modi’s confidant and party General Secretary Amit Shah has been responsible for what he considered was the best choice for each seat. However, the complex reality of UP is different from perception.
The biggest blow is fragmentation of the upper caste vote in central and eastern UP with the Brahmins, who roughly comprise about 8-10 per cent of the electorate, feeling cornered by the perceived dominance of Thakurs in the BJP list.
Party President Rajnath Singh, himself a candidate from Lucknow, leads the Thakur pack with other strongmen — Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh from Kaisarganj, Jagdambika Pal from Domariyagunj, and Lallu Singh from Faizabad.
Against all these candidates, there have been protests at the local level. In fact, a bunch of seers in Ayodhya, which falls in the Faizabad constituency, have dashed off a letter to Shah, protesting against Singh’s candidature. Singh had lost the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls and, in 2012, lost the Ayodhya assembly constituency to the Samajwadi Party.
In Allahabad, there is resentment against the candidature of Shyama Charan Gupta, a local businessman who was until recently with the BSP. Gupta was projected ignoring the claims of local satraps such as Kesri Nath Tripathi.
The icing on the cake is the candidature of self-style godman Swami Sachidanand Hari alias Sakshi Maharaj from Unnao. Besides his alleged involvement in rape and expulsion from the Rajya Sabha for misuse of MP funds, he was accused of murdering his associate Sujata Verma in April last year. Close to former CM Kalyan Singh, Sakshi Maharaj was allegedly involved in the sensational murder of local Brahmin stalwart Brahm Dutt Dwivedi in the late 1990s.
“Things are not going so well in UP. Although we have fielded a lot of Brahmin candidates, the projection of Sakshi Maharaj has not gone down so well,” a BJP source said.
Uma Bharati request denied
In Bundelkhand, the controversy around Uma Bharati’s candidature from Jhansi does not bode well for the party’s overall prospects in the region. Bharati had got her friend, yoga guru Ramdev, to float her candidature from Rae Bareli against Congress President Sonia Gandhi. However, the BJP has not entertained her request. “She cannot be contesting from two seats in the same State. She should concentrate on Jhansi. We will find a suitable candidate against Sonia Gandhi,” a BJP leader said.
The BJP was hoping to make up for the lack of a good organisational structure in this region by the individual appeal of its candidates besides the overall pull of Modi’s personality. But Uma Bharati’s theatrics have upset the party’s calculations.
And in Poorvanchal, the SP has upped the ante with Mulayam Singh Yadav contesting from Azamgarh as well as his traditional seat in Mainpuri. The BJP had won Azamgarh in 2009 but the sitting MP Ramakant Yadav is believed to be perturbed by the SP chief’s challenge.
Banking on Modi
But the BJP is quick on its feet and trying to recover from these setbacks. In the absence of a core vote, a solid organisation structure and trouble on the candidate selection front, the party is entirely dependent on Modi’s popularity to win over the UP voter.
Starting Friday, when Modi is addressing two rallies in Baghpat and Amroha in western UP besides one each in Gohana (Haryana) and Chandigarh, the plan is to rebuild the momentum in the State.