In an apparent elevation of his stature in the BSP, party general secretary Naseemuddin Siddiqui has been named on the second spot, just after his chief Mayawati, in the lists of party’s star campaigners for the whole state. Usually, it was Satish Chandra Misram, another party general secretary, who used to appear after the BSP supremo. His name now comes after Siddiqui.
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Apart from it being a matter of prestige, star campaigners also have the benefit of having their expenses charged in the name of their party instead of the candidate. A recognised party can nominate 40 such campaigners and have to be submitted to the Election Commission.
According to lists of star campaigners submitted by the party to the Election Commission, Siddiqui was on the second spot not just for western UP where he is the party coordinator, but also in the central, eastern and Bundelkhand regions which will go for polls in remaining five phases.
Earlier, BSP functionaries have been careful to put Misra’s name just after Mayawati’s, not just in the lists of star campaigners but also in the list of party’s office-bearers sent to the Election Commission from time to time.
Party sources said Siddiqui’s importance has increased after Mayawati focused on building the Dalit-Muslim combine. She has, reportedly, put her plan of continuing the umbrella coalition of Dalits and Brahmins on the backburner after the rise of BJP as the first choice for upper castes in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
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This election, Siddiqui has been busy addressing three to four public meetings in one day. He has addressed public meetings in almost all constituencies that have gone to polls and also those slated to go for polls on Sunday. “A few of these areas cannot be called Muslim-dominated, but the candidates are calling him because they consider the support of Muslims crucial for their performance in this three-cornered contest,” said a party leader.
The endorsement of BSP by Muslim organisations like All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board, an organisation representing Barelvi Muslims, and religious leaders like Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad and Ulama Council’s Maulana Amir Rashadi are being seen as an outcome of Siddiqui’s hard work. His loyalists, like Raju Balmiki and disqualified MLA from Rasra seat of Ballia district Umashankar Singh, have been included in the list of party’s star campaigners.
“He(Siddiqui) is someone who is dedicated towards the work assigned to him. He gives his 100 per cent to whatever work Behenji gives to him. These days he is the busiest person. He is getting sleep for only two to four hours. He is addressing public meetings during the day and then seeking report from party functionaries about preparation at night,” said Raju Balmiki, a BSP leader who was previously Siddiqui’s public relations officer.
In fact, the BSP has also been trying to increase the number of Muslim star campaigners compared to 2014 Lok Sabha polls when there were only four. Besides Siddiqui, his son Afzal is a star campaigner in the first four phases. Rajya Sabha MP Munquad Ali is also a star campaigner in last three phases. Former MP Afzal Ansari, the brother of gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari, whose family joined the BSP last month, is also star campaigner in east UP. Party coordinators Shamuddeen Raeen, Intezar Abdi and Naushad Ali are three other Muslim star campaigners.
Meanwhile, the number of Brahmin star campaigners has been reduced. In 2014, there were eight, this time there are only five.
There are also no prominent OBC leaders in the list for the first five phases. Leaders like state president Ram Achal Rajbhar and former minister Lalji Verma have been included in the list for last two phases only. Former speaker Sukhdeo Rajbhar does not figure on the list either. Party sources say the three have been given time to focus on their own seats. Interestingly, the party has included former Samajwadi Party leaders Ambika Chaudhary and Narad Rai as star campaigners in east UP, even though they are also party candidates from Phephana and Rasra seats of Ballia district.