BJP has outwitted its rivals in attracting high-profile defectors from other parties ahead of the crucial assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh where it is pulling out all stops to bounce back to power after 15 years in political wilderness. While there has been movement of leaders, including MLAs, from BJP to other parties too, it is the saffron ranks which have swelled the most with new inductions.
Two most high-profile defections to BJP have been those of the incumbent Leader of Opposition and senior BSP leader Swami Prasad Maurya and former state Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
It has kept the caste considerations in mind while welcoming opposition leaders into its fold. While it hopes to firm up its OBC base with the induction of Maurya, Joshi’s decision to join it will send positive signals to Brahmin voters, also being eyed by Congress.
A section of BJP leaders felt that overemphasis on OBC and Dalit outreach may not go down well with its traditional voters, especially the numerically strong Brahmins, but the entry of Joshi and former BSP MP Brajesh Pathak will negate any such perception.
The fact that so many established faces in the state politics have opted for BJP is an indicator of the things to come, a senior party leader said, insisting that it has already stolen a march on its rivals.
Six MLAs, three from Congress, two from BSP and one from SP, had joined BJP in Lucknow on August 11. Several leaders from other parties have joined it since.
Though it is not yet clear how much electoral benefit these leaders will bring to the BJP, its leaders said the desertions have certainly helped the organisation in creating a favourable perception.
BSP supremo Mayawati has targeted BJP for accepting leaders “rejected” by her, while Congress accused its president Amit Shah of “amassing an army of traitors” after it was jolted by Joshi’s exit.
Out of power in the state since 2002, BJP had seen a steady outflow of local satraps to other parties as it was knocked out of reckoning in subsequent elections.
It hopes that new faces will give the much-needed ballast to its campaign in the state where it is relying on its “development agenda” and the Modi government’s “achievements” to emerge victorious.