Political crucial Uttar Pradesh,with 80 Lok Sabha seats,seems to be weighing heavy on the BJP leaderships mind in the run-up to the next national elections. That best explains the series of moves taken by party president Rajnath Singh in an attempt to rebuild the party from scratch in the state.
The fact that five state unit chiefs that served the party in recent years Surya Pratap Shahi,Ramapati Ram Tripathi,Vinay Katiyar,Om Prakash Singh and Keshari Nath Tripathi all lost in their last electoral outings reflects the partys plight in the state.
The need for drastic measures best explains the decision by the BJP to overlook old warhorses and elevate the young and controversial Varun Gandhi as national general secretary. Now,an even more controversial Amit Shah,the former Gujarat minister considered a close confidant of Narendra Modi,has been picked to steer the state ahead of the national elections as in-charge of Uttar Pradesh. The gamble seems to be that Shahs organisational skills and Varuns charisma will work against Samajwadi Party and Congress scions Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi.
At the same time,the BJP is still constrained as far as expanding its caste base goes. At the recent Sultanpur rally addressed by Varun,posters and hoardings were put up by only Brahmin or Rajput workers. It was the loudest signal to Varun and Nitin Gadkari,who also addressed the rally,that the BJP still has some way to go before OBC and Dalit workers see their association with the party as something to brag about. The BJPs quest for revival,however,may hinge on its ability to convince OBCs and Dalits that the SP or BSP need not be their natural party of political aspiration in the state.
It is too short a time for Shah,who only has the experience of a bipolar Gujarat rather than a state with many power centres,to ensure this. However,its a golden opportunity for him to prove that he is a leader within his own right outside of Modis shadow,as it is for Varun to show that the BJPs faith in him as its Nehru-Gandhi face is justified and that he has matured from his crass remarks of the last elections.
Ravish is a senior assistant editor based in Delhi email@example.com