In 2012 when the BJP was out of power both at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh, the party had won 10 out 12 mayoral seats where polling had been held.
Now, when the party is in power in Delhi and Lucknow, the party is treating the civic polls like a general or assembly election. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is leading the campaign across the state with at least 33 public meetings in the three phase local elections. As it is the first test of Adityanath’s government after 8 months rule, the CM is touring all 16 municipal corporations where elections are being held — five election meetings have been planned for him in state capital alone. Also, all the ministers of the state government have been engaged in canvassing across the state.
Polling for the first phase of elections is scheduled on Wednesday when five municipal corporations including Ayodhya and Gorakhpur will vote, along with 71 municipal boards and 154 nagar panchayats.
In a significant initiative, the BJP has for the first time released a manifesto for the urban local body polls state and made a number of promises for development in the cities. Also, the BJP has set up a war room of more than 50 staff members to monitor the party’s campaign and poll management. The party has hired two helicopters for Adityanath, party state chief Mahendra Nath Pandey and the two deputy CMs — Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma- for the duration of the campaign.
According to BJP insiders, several factors are forcing the party to give the civic polls elections such importance. Sources said that the Gujarat assembly polls, scheduled for next month and the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 are in being kept in mind. Results of the UP civic polls will be declared on December 1, before polling in Gujarat and BJP leaders believe that a win or a loss for in UP could influence the Gujarat polls.
If the party wins handsomely in UP’s civic polls, the message will be that the most populated state has faith in Narendra Modi, BJP and Yogi Adityanath.
Urban local bodies in UP—particularly mayor seats of the municipal corporations– are considered a stronghold for the BJP and the party had a winning majority in the past when it was out of power. The BJP has always won in Varanasi, the PM’s Lok Sabha constituency. The BJP has won the Lucknow mayor’s seat four consecutive times. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is the current Lucknow MP, the constituency that has been represented by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. At least five ministers of Adityanath’s cabinet are canvassing in Lucknow where polling is scheduled on November 26. The BJP has also won in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home town of Gorakhpur several times.
“If the party looses any of these seats– particularly Varanasi—the Opposition will get an opportunity to call it the PM’s and Adityanath’s failure. The opposition can effectively raise the poll results in the Gujarat elections and also in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It is a must for the BJP to win these seats and hence the CM personally is visiting a maximum number of constituencies,” said a BJP leader.
Adityanath will campaign in Varanasi on Wednesday.
Adityanath had started his poll campaign from Ayodhya where his entire cabinet had celebrated Diwali on a grand scale in October and projects worth Rs 133 crore were announced for the town of temples. Ayodhya is also in the news for the recent visit of Art of Living (AoL) founder Sri Sri Ravishankar to meet different stakeholders of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri mosque title suit.
The Adityanath government has created Ayodhya and Mathura-Vrindavan as two new municipal corporations and he addressed public meeting in both cities. Sources said that he is also keeping a watch on the BJP’s organisational affairs in view of the polls. “The prestige of the CM is at stake in the civic polls. The BJP cannot afford to lose any of 10 mayoral seats it had won in 2012 when party was out of power both in the state as well as the Centre,” remarked a BJP leader.