Updated: November 7, 2021 2:46:28 am
DAYS AFTER after former BJP national president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah took stock of the party’s preparations for the 2022 Assembly polls, the party on Friday set up a four-member joining committee to screen names of the leaders who wish to take BJP membership ahead of the elections scheduled for early next year.
Sources said the committee would keep an eye on “influential leaders of other parties who are neglected and looking for a better political platform” so that the BJP may approach them for bringing them into its fold.
The party has appointed its former state unit president Laxmikant Bajpai, a prominent Brahmin face from western Uttar Pradesh who had been cooling his heels following his defeat in the 2017 Assembly polls, as chairperson of the committee. Both the deputy chief ministers — Keshav Prasad Maurya (an OBC) and Dinesh Sharma (a Brahmin) — are vice-chairpersons, while the state unit vice-president Dayashankar Singh (a Thakur) is a member of the committee.
“As the Assembly election draws near, there will be a rush [of leaders] to join the BJP. A committee like this one will ensure that leaders with a clean image and following join the party,” BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said. When asked about the functioning of the committee, Bajpai said, “All committee members will meet the state president in Lucknow on Sunday and seek guidelines.”
However, a senior BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity that state unit chief Swatantra Dev Singh constituted the committee on the directives of the central leadership. “At a meeting in Lucknow with party state office-bearers, state core committee and election in-charge and co-in-charge, Amit Shah had expressed disappointment over some prominent BSP leaders joining the Samajwadi Party, instead of the BJP. The party’s top brass has also taken note that some senior BSP leaders and sitting MLAs, who were either expelled or had quit the party — preferred to join the Samajwadi Party (SP) recently instead of the BJP. Likewise, few Congress leaders too joined the SP,” the leader added.
“For example, BSP MLAs Lalji Verma and Ram Achal Rajbhar, who recently met SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, will join SP on Sunday during a rally in Ambedkar Nagar… They could have been useful faces for the BJP in the district, which is a BSP stronghold. Both had won their seats as BSP candidates despite a pro-BJP trend in 2017. However, both preferred the SP. Former BSP state unit president RS Kushwaha also joined the SP last month… Surprisingly, non-Yadav OBC leaders are preferring the SP over the BJP. This sends a wrong message,” said another BJP leader.
According to BJP insiders, the party, which had won 312 seats five years ago, requires mass leaders who can either win the elections or help other candidates win this time as quite a few sitting MLAs will be dropped this time due to their “poor reputation” in their constituencies.
Adding to it, the BJP has already lost former ally Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), which has joined hands with SP.
BJP sources said the joining committee will also help filter out leaders who have a criminal or tainted background. This was after a recent controversy when former BSP MLA Jitendra Singh alias Babloo joined the BJP in presence of its UP unit chief Swatantra Dev Singh. Within a few days, his party membership was cancelled as he was one of the prime accused in a case of arson at the residence of sitting BJP MP Rita Bahuguna Joshi in 2009. Joshi was then the Congress state president.
“The party wants to avoid such embarrassment ahead of the elections,” said a BJP leader.
Also, by making Bajpai chairperson of the committee, the party wants to send a clear message to workers: that it regards its senior leaders, said a party leader. Bajpai was in political oblivion after he was replaced by Keshav Prasad Maurya as state unit chief in 2016. “If a leader considers switching to BJP, he would have more faith in Bajpai’s assurance,” said a party leader.
Explained: Why BJP needs such a panel
In the run-up to 2017 UP Assembly polls, BJP had seen tens of leaders joining it. Five years on, with polls just months away, the recent influx of leaders from different political parties has been towards the Samajwadi Party. Forming this panel is seen as a step by BJP to make for a calibrated entry of leaders into its fold, as the party gears up for the elections.
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