Updated: January 19, 2022 7:52:41 am
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is set to take on a more active role in the Uttar Pradesh BJP election campaign as the party tries to seize back the narrative following a series of departures of OBC leaders and sitting MLAs.
Starting this weekend, Shah will be more visible on the ground, with the party hoping it will give the campaign momentum as well as boost the morale of the cadre. He is expected to tour the entire state starting January 22, the day the Election Commission will take a call next on whether to continue the ban on public rallies and yatras on account of Covid.
He will supervise rallies, as well as campaign and ticket distribution across all the six organisational regions the party has divided UP into — Braj, Kashi, Awadh, Gorakhpur, West UP and Kanpur. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party’s top campaigner, will also hold multiple rallies in all the regions, if these are allowed.
Party leaders claimed they remain hopeful of winning 270-290 seats out of the 403 in UP, way more than the needed majority, and Shah’s involvement would take the party past the 300 mark (the BJP had won 325 in 2017). The BJP president at the time of the last elections, Shah was considered the architect of that win, setting the stage for the party’s dominance across the Hindi heartland. Given his familiarity with the state and its issues, including its caste chessboard, Shah is expected to provide the push where it is needed.
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Shah had earlier made it clear that the responsibility of the UP campaign lay with Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan and senior leader Radha Mohan Singh. To quell any speculation, both Shah and Modi had publicly reposed faith in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, with Shah going to the extent of saying that for Yogi in 2022 would pave the way for Modi in 2024.
However, the party is conscious that dissonance among the ranks needs to be addressed. A hard-nosed CM who prides himself as a tough administrator, Adityanath may have built a base amidst the public but is seen as offhandish by a section of the BJP cadre.
Acknowledging that many party workers felt “disenchanted” and ignored, a senior leader said: “Yogi has the public connect, but he is not so connected with the cadre, whereas Shah may not be a man with huge public support in the state, but he certainly has strong influence and hold over the cadre. Only the Prime Minister has an equally strong connection with the public and cadre.”
Another senior UP BJP leader said Shah taking a more hands-on approach would be “a big boost to the cadre”. “The state unit has no one who can bring them around. However, a leader like Shah telling them you will be taken care of is definitely comforting.”
One of the main focus areas for Shah would be eastern UP, where the exit of the OBC leaders is expected to have the most impact on the party. Three ministers and 11 MLAs have left the BJP in the last few days, several of them belonging to this region. Among them, while Swami Prasad Maurya has a good hold over Maurya, Shakya, Kushwaha and Saini community votes, Dara Singh Chauhan has the backing of the Lohia-Chauhan votes.
Although the BJP argues their leaving would not make much difference as they came from other parties, and that the BJP has stronger leaders from the same communities, it admits it might take a hit in certain pockets. “These leaders can take away their support base with them. So we need to be careful with tickets in eastern UP,” said a leader, adding that it is here that Shah’s “deep understanding about UP and “his ability to get leaders to fall in line” would help.
Before the Election Commission banned rallies and yatras due to Covid, Shah had addressed a series of Jan Vishwas Yatras across UP. He has also been a part of all meetings held by the party to finalise strategy as well as candidates.
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