Almost consistently missing at most key meetings and events of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh over the last several months, BJP national vice-president in-charge for Uttar Pradesh, Om Prakash Mathur, was not in Varanasi when party president Amit Shah went to the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency on Wednesday.
Shah is on a two-day tour of the state with an aim to streamline the party organisation for preparations ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Ostensibly upset with party affairs in the state, and working style of BJP state unit general secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal, Mathur has skipped key party events in the state for nearly 9 months now. His absence has been noticed at several meetings, including multiple events involving Shah, CM Yogi Adityanath or NDA allies, in recent months.
On his visit to Varanasi and Mirzapur on Wednesday —- to address a meeting of BJP social media volunteers, as also meet leaders from the regions of Gorakhpur, Kashi and Awadh —- Shah was accompanied by BJP national general secretaries Bhupender Yadav and Arun Singh. Sources said Mathur was in Rajasthan today on some party-related events.
Incidentally, all meetings Mathur skipped were attended by Bansal, Adityanath and BJP’s state unit president Mahendra Nath Pandey. Neither Mathur nor Bansal was available for a comment. Dismissing reports that Mathur was upset with party affairs, BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi told The Indian Express, “It is true that Mathur-ji’s movement in UP has decreased over the last few months but that is because he is busy with responsibilities in different states. Mathur-ji is known as an election strategist…under his guidance BJP won UP elections. He was earlier busy with other tasks, but UP BJP regularly gets his guidance on important issues.”
Sources said the last major party event Mathur attended in UP was the state executive meeting in Kanpur in October 2017. He visited Varanasi in February this year for a coordination meeting of the RSS and its offshoots. Sources said Mathur is upset with alleged lobbies in the party organisation in the state. “Lobbying has increased after the party came to power in UP,” a BJP leader said. “Some leaders are taking unilateral decisions without consulting the state in-charge (Mathur).”
According to this leader, Mathur had not taken part in discussions on selection of candidates for Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council elections in UP and Lok Sabha by-polls of Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana in the state. BJP had lost all three Lok Sabha by-polls in the state.
Sources said Mathur has expressed unwillingness in continuing as the party’s in-charge for the electorally crucial state. The party leadership, however, has not made any fresh appointment so far even as meetings and programmes have begun in UP with eye on the General Election.
Seen as a confidant of PM Narendra Modi, Mathur was BJP’s Gujarat in-charge during Modi’s tenure as CM. A former RSS pracharak, Mathur was subsequently deployed as election in-charge in Maharashtra, where the BJP recorded victory. He was given charge of UP in October 2014.
Some key events OP Mathur skipped in UP this year:
- April 21: BJP president Amit Shah addressed a public meet in Rae Bareli. CM Adityanath, BJP’s state president Mahendra Nath Pandey were present.
- April 21: Shah’s meetings at BJP headquarters with state core committee members and other office-bearers on preparations for 2019 polls.
- April 16: Event to filed nominations of BJP candidates for UP Legislative Council polls.
- April 11: Shah’s meetings with ministers, BJP office-bearers and leaders of allies at CM’s residence in Lucknow.
- March 14: BJP meeting in Lucknow to review party’s performance in elections to cooperative bodies — results for Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bypolls declared same day; BJP lost both seats.
- March 13: Party office-bearers’ met in Lucknow to decide action plan.