Amit Shah exerts more influence in the party than any past president, including loh purush L K Advani in his hey day. Shah runs a one-man show in which there is little room for debate or consensus. Some time back a visitor to the BJP office on Ashoka Road was taken aback to find that all BJP office-bearers present in the building were at pains to rush to the gate to receive Shah when he arrived. No other president was given such a ceremonial reception. A major English TV channel which displayed the exit poll results and the actual seat tallies, used Shah’s photo to represent the BJP along with pictures of Akhilesh Yadav, Rahul and Mayawati, as leaders of their respective parties. Prime Minister Modi is unlikely to be amused by this. Shah may be a master strategist but it is Modi’s magic which got the seats in Uttar Pradesh.
Saraswati, no help
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was not the first one to propose that the Samajwadi Party, Congress and BSP should form an alliance in UP to keep the BJP out. Sensing defeat much earlier, pollster Prashant Kishor had talked privately of a Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati alliance. The last being a reference to the BSP which he felt could turn out to be an invisible ally. Clearly not given much importance by Akhilesh Yadav during the UP campaign, the Congress whiz-kid pollster grumbled that the UP Chief Minister had not played his cards well. Of course when the results were out, the Congress realised that even merging with Saraswati would have been of little use.
Rajnath Singh took a break from the UP election campaign to visit the Northeast last month. His party men were surprised to find that Singh did not make many phone calls to UP to get a feedback on the trends of polling in the third phase of elections, nor did he receive many calls from the state where election fever was at its peak. Singh told a visitor that he isn’t involved in micro-management of the election. As the tallest leader from UP in the Union Cabinet, it was expected that his party would ask Singh if he was interested in being the chief ministerial candidate, but the Home Minister was not consulted or sounded. Singh is not a favourite of Shah, particularly after his remark that it was unfortunate that the BJP had not fielded a single Muslim candidate in UP.
No bridging gap
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel has reason to be furious. It was during the Manmohan Singh regime, thanks to Patel’s persistent efforts, that the UPA government had cleared a project for a four-lane cable bridge over the Narmada river near his hometown Bharuch to facilitate traffic on the highway. However, at the inaugural function last week, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi presiding, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari tried to steal the credit claiming that he had terminated the earlier contract to build the bridge due to non-performance, and issued a fresh tender at a lower price, and that construction of the bridge started on March 3, 2015, during his tenure. Patel sent a clarification pointing out that the work on the bridge started in March 2014 and that the then minister C P Joshi had inaugurated the bridge along with former Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel. He submitted all the necessary documents to prove his point that the tender for the bridge contract on an EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) basis was awarded to L&T in 2013. Gadkari waffled, responding that he would get the matter examined. In a further slight, Patel, the man whom the people of Bharuch and Ankleshwar too recognise as the driving force behind the project, was verbally invited by the district collector only a day before the inauguration.
After the UP results, the Congress should learn a lesson or two from the BJP in getting its caste equations right in Madhya Pradesh rather than allowing only Thakurs to dominate. Recently, Ajay Singh, son of the late Arjun Singh, was appointed Congress leader in the Assembly, following the death of Satyadev Katare. Singh is a Thakur, as are the four other Congress MLAs in the front bench of the Assembly — Rajendra Singh, Govind Singh, Mahendra Singh Kalukheda and K P Singh. OBCs, SCs and tribals account for nearly 80 per cent of the state’s population. The BJP, keeping this in mind, ensured that its last three CMs in the state, namely Uma Bharti, Babulal Gaur and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, were OBCs.