The BJP will continue to bank heavily on its RSS network next year when it seeks to end its 15-year-break from power in Uttar Pradesh. Where it will be tactically different, sources said, is that the Sangh will depute leaders with an ABVP background to try and counter Chief Minister Akhilesh Singh’s youth appeal and Mayawati’s focus on projecting a progressive image for the BSP.
The BJP had divided the state into six kshetras: Awadh, Kanpur-Bundelkhand, Gorakhpur, Braj, Kashi and Paschim. Each kshetra will have one president — a BJP leader with an RSS background — besides an organisation general secretary from the Sangh has been chosen to lead the election effort, these already chosen: Ratnakar Pandey (Kashi), Shivkumar Pathak (Gorakhpur), Braj Bahadur (Awadh), Om Prakash (Kanpur-Bundelkhand),Bhavani Singh (Braj) and Chandrashekhar (Paschim).
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Most of these leaders, as well as others involved in the effort, have worked actively with the ABVP. “In all likelihood Uttar Pradesh will have a number of new faces,” a BJP leader said. “The older RSS workers in the state had a VHP background, including current state party chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, and have worked with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. They need to be phased out and a new group of Vidyarthi Parishad activists is being drafted into the BJP effort.” He explained why: “The party will campaign from a plank of development and modernity. We are fighting against the party of a fairly young chief minister, and also a Dalit leader who has the image of an educated leader.”
BJP leaders engaged in Uttar Pradesh also conceded that the party has not produced or been able to project a strong second-rung leadership in the state. “That’s another reason behind BJP’s outsourcing its organisation activities to former ABVP activities. This could be reflected in candidate selection too.”
The BJP’s state organisation secretary, Sunil Bansal, was a full-time volunteer of the ABVP. Considered close to BJP chief Amit Shah, Bansal was in UP as election manager during the Lok Sabha polls too. He was formerly national convener of ABVP’s Youth Against Corruption, launched in 2011.
The RSS has given the responsibility of monitoring election work to Shiv Prakash, national joint general secretary (organisation). “His work in the West Bengal elections was highly appreciated. The BJP was second in 30 to 40 seats. For the first time since 1991 (when the party bagged 11.43 per cent of the vote), the party got a double-digit vote share (12 per cent),” the source said.
Prakash reportedly went into the interiors of West Bengal to build the organisation. “He will do so in UP too,” the source said.