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BJP in UP: Why a party with 73 MPs is afraid it won't have even 73 MLAs

Panini Anand | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 6:06 IST

The crisis

  • BJP is in disarray in UP and there seems to be no effort towards improvement
  • Key decisions, such as appointing a state unit chief, are being delayed
  • It is for this reason that RSS has deputed Dattatreya Hosabale to take charge of the UP campaign

More in the story

  • What ails the BJP in UP?
  • Why are party leaders pessimistic?
  • Is Amit Shah to blame?

A joke doing the rounds in the power corridors of Lucknow sums up the current plight of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. It goes something like this: the BJP which has 73 Lok Sabha seats in UP, may find it difficult to reach the same tally in the Vidhan Sabha, even though UP has 5 times as many Assembly seats as Parliamentary ones.

Strangely, even hardcore BJP supporters don't dispute this prediction. They blame the central leadership's indifference and delays in decision making for the party's woes.

Read- BJP's new messiah: RSS picks Dattatreya Hosabale to lead Mission UP

The party is in a dismal state in UP. Even though elections are due next year, the party organisation is far from battle ready. But the attitude of the leadership is like that of a python sitting with its mouth wide open, hoping that the prey would enter on its own.

The crisis

Amit Shah was assigned the responsibility of handling the BJP's UP affairs in 2013. His performance was beyond expectations as the BJP won 73 out of 80 seats in UP in the Lok Sabha elections. This was instrumental in catapulting Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of the country.

As a reward, Shah was made president of the BJP. But he has not been able to stem the decline of the BJP organisation in UP. In fact problems have increased in the last few months. The organisation lies scattered and intra-party feuds are on the rise. There is still no consensus over the next state president. The lack of a clear chain of command at the state level means there is constant bickering among state leaders.

The party missed out on reaching out to the voters during Holi and other festivals

MPs are becoming increasingly disgruntled from the party as well as the central government. The workers on the ground, who were dazzled by Modi's charisma just about one-and-a-half years ago, have now gone silent.

The Modi government's failure to deliver on many fronts has compounded their despondency. There is no dearth of leaders for BJP in the state but there is hardly any coherence.

The rivals

In contrast, the preparations are already in full swing for some of the other parties.

SP has declared its candidates for 143 constituencies in the state. The BSP, too, isn't far behind.

"We have finalised the tickets for 75% of assembly seats. Our candidates are already working in their respective areas. The party organisation is also actively campaigning. We are keeping a close eye on election issues and the efforts of our contestants," a senior BSP leader told Catch News.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi 2.0: Pappu can dance! With a little help from Prashant Kishor

The flurry of activity in the SP and BSP hasn't gone unnoticed in the BJP.

"Time is slipping from our hands...The leaders and contestants of other parties are working among the masses during important festivals like Holi, Basant Panchmi and Navratri. But we are still waiting for our party president," he further adds.

Even the Congress seems to have made more progress. It has appointed poll managers - Prashant Kishor will be managing the party's UP campaign - and has begun identifying relevant election issues. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has jumped into the electoral battle and is actively participating in party programs. He has instructed his party workers to up the ante in run up to the elections.

However, the BJP is still in an ostrich-like situation burying its head in the sand. The party leaders seem to be waiting for a right opportunity to kick-start its campaign.

BJP is yet to decide on who its state unit president will be

"The time period between January to April was crucial for establishing contact with the voters, especially during the festivals. It was the last Holi before the elections. Most people would now be busy in harvesting crops. The scorching heat of summers would make campaigning difficult in the coming months. It would be futile to wait till the rainy season," worries one senior state BJP leader.

He further says, "We have very little time to repeat the performance of the 2014 elections. There are a lot of challenges - ranging from organisational structure to formulating the campaign strategy. Any further delay would only harm the party's prospects."

The shortcomings

Apart from the Modi wave, communal polarisation had also worked in BJP's favour during the last general elections. This was particularly evident in the western belt of the state. But the party would be ill-advised to count on the same factors this time around. The disappointing performance of the party in the recent by-elections has only underlined the waning Modi factor. The efforts to polarise the electorate had backfired in Bihar elections. BJP cannot afford to confine itself to western UP. It is clear that whipping up of communal passions would not be sufficient for the party.

Moreover, divisive politics won't help the BJP address its own internal fissures. The infighting has already dented the party and any bungling in ticket distribution could could cost it further.

Read more: Is a BSP-Congress-RLD Grand Alliance emerging in UP?

Amit Shah appears to be concentrating his efforts in other states in the face of such monumental challenges. He has worked hard to revive the party during his previous tenure. His team in UP is full of novices and there are few experienced campaigners in the list of his trusted lieutenants.

The UP assembly elections are nothing short of the semifinal of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This is the reason RSS has transferred Dattatreya Hosabale to the state. He is among the most senior functionaries of the Sangh Parivar. But the BJP leaders still appear to be misreading the ground situation. They are viewing the drought as the spring through their green-tinted glasses.

Edited by Aditya Menon

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First published: 31 March 2016, 8:55 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.