Tuesday, March 28, 2017
LUCKNOW: The Bharatiya Janata Party might have won a maximum of Lok Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh but it is still finding it difficult to project one face as the Chief Minister for the forthcoming elections. That it is looking to do so was confirmed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar when he said that the party will “soon” announce its choice for the post.
The BJP that was earlier following the Congress practice of ‘electing’ a Chief Minister post elections learnt a hard lesson in Bihar. A course correction in Assam helped and clearly the party top brass is again looking at announcing a CM candidate before the crucial elections in this state.
Significantly the old guard of the BJP, namely the Kalraj Mishra’s and the Lalji Tandons as is a popular euphemism for the same in Lucknow, have been completely sidelined. BJP president Amit Shah since he was sent to UP by PM Narendra Modi before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, has worked hard to create his own party packed with loyalists to the new order. The UP unit of the BJP was largely dominated by Atal Bihari Vajpayee supporters which is now no longer the case.
Although various names are in circulation---such as the rather low key UP leaders Mahesh Sharma and Manoj Sinha---only four names come to mind from the BJP in UP. And if stretched a bit, possibly five who have been visible and vocal and have access to the Delhi top leaders. This also encapsulates the BJP politics and UP policy that has been shifted into hard gear by party president Amit Shah since before the Lok Sabha polls.
Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur is a dominant figure. He is a Member of Parliament, has been active in hate speech that has marked the BJP approach to UP in recent years, and his supporters are already pitching for him in the state. He has become famous over recent months with his hate speech, with the Yogi not particularly worried about accountability and the law.
Adityanath, 44,born a slightly less dramatic Ajay Singh, functions as a head priest of a Gorakhpur Mutt. He founded the Hindu Yuva Vahini and been brash and brazen about his hatred for the Muslims. Recently he was served a notice by the Election Commission with his, “In places where there are 10 to 20% minorities, stray communal incidents take place. Where there are 20 to 35% of them, serious communal riots take place and where they are more than 35%, there is no place for non-Muslims."
He does not hesitate to drop into hate speech at a moment’s notice, directing his ire at the Muslims, insisting he was in place to protect Hindus, and seeking to polarise the communities in the state. For instance, "We will not tolerate harassment of Hindus in the state at any cost. Various parts of UP witnessed communal riots but eastern UP remained untouched. If anybody tries to touch Hindus in eastern UP, he will have to face the consequences.”
He is seen , at least by many in the party, as the star campaigner for the party in the forthcoming polls and his supporters are already projecting him as the next Chief Minister in eastern UP. He is the recognised face of the new BJP in UP.
Keshav Prasad Maurya is close to Amit Shah and his choice to head the BJP party in UP. His claim to fame is what the BJP describes as his participation in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the subsequent demolition of the Babri mosque. Maurya moved from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to the RSS and is now BJP state president because he is an OBC. He represents the Kushwaha community that is said to total 8% of UP’s caste ridden population.
Maurya is a first-time MP from Phulpur and seen to be a Shah loyalist. However, he is the ‘stretch’ referred to earlier as, despite the post, he is certainly not the face that splashes across the media every now and again. However, he has worked hard with the BJP president on the cow protection issue, and according to sources, works behind the scenes in ensuring that the hardline agenda set for UP is implemented in full. However, Maurya is not likely to be the party’s first choice for CM and will have to probably remain content with the state president position. Given the fact that this itself was seen as a big plus by his supporters, Maurya, unlike Adityanath, will not be reaching for the moon.
Sangeet Som, a relatively unknown legislator of the BJP from western UP shot into fame during the Muzaffarnagar violence. He was credited with posting and circulating a video on the social media, taken out from an incident in Pakistan, and using it to whip up hate against the Muslims in the area. By the time the video was exposed as false by an apathetic state apparatus, Muzaffarnagar had erupted in violence. This violence placed Som centrestage, he was garlanded and felicitated at meetings even as an arrest warrant was out against him. He was arrested finally and released on bail in record time.
With this record Som has become a well known face of the BJP. He travels to ‘trouble spots’ to whip up sentiment against the minorities. He was in Dadri recently whipping up passions and demanding that the family of Mohammad Akhlaq who was beaten to death by a mob on the issue of beef, now be charged with a case of cow slaughter. This was after an unverified report suddenly emerged after eight months claiming that the meat consumed by Akhlaq was beef. Som has announced that he will personally ensure the release of the 17 persons arrested for lynching Akhlaq.
And then of course there is Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who sees himself as a leader in his own right.
Singh is not dependent on Amit Shah for his stature, and relations between the two while cordial are certainly not the best. Singh, initially was not trusted by the new guard as he was seen to be close to former PM Vajpayee and also “ambitious” enough to eye the top post himself. He is of course a face and a name from UP, but is not likely to move to Lucknow in the foreseeable future.
Unlike the hardliners who seem to be dominating UP politics for the BJP these days, Singh prefers to keep his nose above the murky waters, believes in the language at least of reconciliation, and does not like to rock any boat---least of all his own.
And then of course there is Maneka Gandhi-Sanjay Gandhi’s son Varun Gandhi who is making a strong pitch for the post. Like Adityanath, he considers himself to be a serious candidate despite his blow hot and cold relationship wth the current BJP leadership. A good orator, Varun Gandhi and his supporters feel that his time has come, and that the party should honour him.
His---of course one should write his supporters---campaign is very visible on the social media with a strong pitch being made for him. However, despite this he does not seem to be in the reckoning. This despite a brief stint where he had adopted the BJP hardline in his speeches, but moved back from that position fairly soon. Unfortunately Varun Gandhi is always dogged with rumours, a recent one being that he is looking to join the Congress party. Clearly he has many detractors in the BJP.