Updated: February 1, 2017 7:03:49 am
THERE is growing disquiet within a section of the BJP and the RSS over the allocation of tickets in Uttar Pradesh.
Torching effigies of party national president Amit Shah and state chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, protests blocking Shah’s vehicle on his recent visit to Lucknow, holding Faizabad BJP MP and party’s district president virtual hostage in Ayodhya — party insiders say this is the first time that such resentment has boiled over so close to the election.
The RSS has six state units in UP and at least four of them are said to have expressed their reservations against what they call “arbitrary ticket distribution” to “outsiders and relatives” instead of those who have worked on the ground.
Sources said that party’s General Secretary (Organisation) Ramlal and RSS’s Sah-sarkaryawah in-charge of BJP Krishna Gopal have been trying to convince all prant pracharaks that it’s better to paper over the cracks and work for a BJP victory in “the national interest.” But this is easier said than done.
One of the pracharaks is said to have told Ramlal: “Ye aag jisne lagayee hai, wahi bujhayega, hum kya kar sakte hain. (This fire can be doused by those who have ignited it).”
Sources said that Kshetra Pracharak of eastern UP Shiv Narayan, whose area has 263 Assembly seats, is avoiding meeting BJP candidates.
On January 25, when Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who moved from Congress to BJP last year, visited the RSS office in Lucknow to meet him to ask for support of the RSS workers in her area, he is said to have declined to meet her.
When contacted, Shiv Narain declined to comment. Bahuguna said: “It is wrong that he did not meet me, he met me once. The RSS people are not political. Woh andar hi andar kaam karte hain (they work behind the scene). I am sure they will work silently for me.”
A senior RSS pracharak in Lucknow told The Indian Express, “The BJP leaders took our advice on tickets but hardly honoured it. Initially, there was an understanding that most of the tickets will be given to workers and rest to relatives of leaders and outsiders but they have done just the opposite.” Another senior pracharak based in Varanasi said: “Many things happened which should not have happened. Tickets have gone to those people for whom no one wants to work, RSS or BJP. However, we can’t work against BJP but it is difficult to enthuse workers.”
On paper, the process of ticket distribution is rigorous: the party’s district unit sends a panel of names — one to as many as 12 in some cases — for each constituency to the regional unit which reviews the list, shortlists it to five or six. The regional unit then forwards this list to the state election committee which discusses the names and passes on a whittled-down list to the central election committee.
“We take names suggested by the party organisation leaders and finalise the candidates on the grounds of winnability and image,” said state party spokesperson Chandra Mohan.
A senior party leader said that this time, many senior leaders were also consulted; the party sought names of winnable candidates from district presidents, regional unit leaders, state unit leaders, local MPs and even office bearers of various offshoots of RSS. The party then picked out the names common to all these lists, conducted a survey and finally chose the candidate.
Yet, the final choice in many cases has left a section of the party angry.
In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi, for example, party workers gheraoed state president Maurya as he visited the district last week. The crowd was demanding a ticket for Shyamdeo Roy Chaudhary who has won the Varanasi North seat for seven consecutive terms including in 2012. The party replaced Chaudhary with Neelkanth Tiwari. Maurya met Chaudhary and tried to pacify him.
Workers also protested in Varanasi against the candidature of Saurabh Srivastava from Varanasi Cantonment. Saurabh’s mother Jyotsana is a three-time MLA from the same seat and her husband late Harishchandra Srivastava had also been MLA. “Workers were protesting against politics of dynasty. Thousands of workers are working for the party for decades but the party selected the MLA’s son to replace her,” said a BJP office-bearer. Protesting against Saurabh, a group of BJP workers displayed banners across the city.
Similar protests were staged by supporters of BJP Yuva Morcha vice-president Manish Singh against Sunil Narayan who is the candidate from Rohaniya in Varanasi.
In Amethi, too, BJP district vice-president Rajendra Kumar Chaudhary resigned from the post last week after the party denied him a ticket from Jagdishpur (reserved for SC) Assembly segment. The party announced Suresh Pasi as its nominee there. “Suresh had been in Samajwadi Party earlier, he only joined BJP during Lok Sabha elections. I am working for the party for the past 25 years but the party ignored me,” Chaudhary said.
Chaudhary’s supporters raised slogans against party state chief Marurya and Union Minister Smriti Irani who has been a frequent visitor to Amethi since the Lok Sabha election in 2014.
Uma Shanker Pandey, who was appointed Amethi district president last year and has been declared the party candidate from Gauriganj, is also facing opposition from workers loyal to five- time MLA from Gauriganj and veteran party leader Tejbhan Singh who was passed over. They torched effigies of Smriti Irani and Maurya and several office-bearers in charge of booths have resigned.
In Rae Bareli, too, party workers staged protests and torched effigies of Amit Shah and former BSP leader leader Swami Prasad Maurya who joined BJP last year. Swami Prasad Maurya’s son Utkrishta has got the BJP ticket from Unchahar in Rae Bareli where he lost his election as BSP nominee in 2012.
BJP workers in Faizabad held hostage local MP Lallu Singh and district president Awadesh Pandey at the party office on January 25 as part of their agitation against the party’s decision to give a ticket to Ved Prakash Gupta from Ayodhya. Workers argued that Gupta is an “outsider” because he joined the BJP a year ago. Gupta had contested 2012 election from Ayodhya as a BSP nominee and in 2002 as a Samajwadi Party candidate.
After the announcement of Gupta’s candidature on January 22, local party workers burnt effigies of party national vice-president and state in-charge Om Mathur, state general secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal and district president Awadhesh Pandey.
Several aspirants from the Tindwari constituency of Banda district along with their supporters staged protests against the candidature of Brijesh Prajapati saying that he was an “outsider” and had left BSP to join the BJP. A group of workers also staged demonstration outside the Lucknow airport on Saturday when Shah landed there to release the party’s election manifesto.
When asked about these protests, BJP state general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak said: “The workers were supposed to raise their issues in an appropriate manner. But the situation has become normal after their discussions with senior leaders.”