National

BJP in poll mode ahead of elections in 7 States

Poornima Joshi New Delhi | Updated on July 12, 2021

Defending power The BJP is in power in six of the seven States going to the polls in 2022   -  MUSTAFAH KK

Party is also expected to refurbish the Union Cabinet as it prepares for polls

As the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, political activity in the ruling party has heightened as it rushes to refurbish the Union Cabinet and prepares for the 2022 Assembly polls across seven States, in six of which the BJP and its allies are in power.

Barring Punjab which offers little to the BJP in the light of ongoing anti-farm law protests and departure of old ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the party seems determined to hold on to the politically most crucial State of Uttar Pradesh from where ally Apna Dal’s leader Anupriya Patel is likely to be inducted in the expected expansion of the Union Cabinet to balance the backward caste equations in the State. According to sources, BJP will hold a special virtual session on June 18 to meet the political challenges in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the cadre would be instructed to spread the Government’s policy measures. A film is to be screened on the occasion which the cadre has been instructed to show till the district and block level till July 10 in all local languages. Special training sessions for the cadre will be organised under the supervision of party leaders Dushyant Gautam and Muralidhar Rao.

Union Home Minister Shah has, over the weekend, met over 25 MPs from UP, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and others States while the Prime Minister has been meeting Union Ministers in groups in what is being described as review of the political situation and status of work allocated to the Ministers.

Multiple portfolios

Several Ministers including Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Prakash Javdekar who hold charge of more than one portfolio while there are political appointments waiting to be made.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, who played a crucial role in toppling the Kamal Nath-led Congress Government in Madhya Pradesh last year, needs to be accommodated, while the JD(U) needs to have representation in the Cabinet as well. Two-time Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Modi too is waiting in the wings as is former Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal.

Patel had met Shah around the same time last Thursday when UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath came to meet him. Shah, who has been the architect of BJP’s successful run in UP with his clever social engineering that included an outreach to non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav SCs along with the party’s traditional voter base of upper castes, is clearly in charge of poll preparations this time around too. Yogi’s prolonged parleys with Shah, Modi as also the BJP President JP Nadda were described as a review and planning exercise after his administration came under sharp attack by the party’s own leaders during a series of review meetings held by RSS strongman BL Santosh and Radha Mohan Singh in Lucknow last month. The complaint being that the bureaucracy has over-shadowed political authority and for its handling of the Covid-19 second surge which, according to the official estimate, has claimed 21,858 lives.

Balancing equations

Another issue in UP is what is described as prachand Thakurwaad or favouritism by the CM of the Thakurs, a caste to which he himself belongs. The Brahmins, who constitute about 13 per cent of the electorate in UP, have sought to be placated by the BJP’s central command with the induction of former Congress MP Jitin Prasada. Another addition that is waiting to happen in the UP Cabinet is that of PM’s hand-picked AK Sharma who took premature retirement from the IAS to be appointed as MLC in UP.

Adityanath has so far circumvented his addition in his Cabinet but after the latest round of meetings, this is a likely development as Health Minister. There is also a likelihood of Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya being re-appointed State BJP Chief as part of the outreach towards the OBCs.

The BJP has moved swiftly into poll mode and the plan is clearly to dust off post-Covid popular disenchantment with a refurbished cast of characters and pro-people policy measures such as disbursement of rations, and speeding up infrastructure projects such as Poorvanchal Expressway.

Published on June 15, 2021

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