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Rajnath to lead UP campaign: Has BJP realised limitations of Modi-Shah?

Panini Anand | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is going to be the head of BJP's campaign committee for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Though BJP is not announcing the name of its chief ministerial candidate, Rajnath Singh will now be the face of the campaign along with PM Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.

This has not happened all of a sudden. For the past few months, Rajnath Singh's presence and prominence has been felt in BJP's UP affairs.

When Modi decided to go to Saharanpur on the completion of two years in office, Rajnath's prominence at the rally was second only to the PM.

He addressed the rally just before Modi and appealed to the people to end the BJP's 14 year Vanvaas in the state and bring it back to power.

By holding its national executive meet in Allahabad, the holy city of triveni (confluence of 3 rivers - Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati), BJP is sending a clear political message regarding the centrality of UP.

It is also clear that the elections would be fought with regional satraps at the forefront.

Also read - UP polls: Is Amit Shah repeating the mistakes his party made in Bihar?

Rajnath's prominence won't be restricted to the party's publicity material. According to a party source, it's just a matter of time before Rajnath is declared as the head of BJP's campaign committee in the state.

Why Rajnath?

In the Union Cabinet, Rajnath Singh is the most prominent face from UP after Modi, who is the MP from Varanasi. He has also been a minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh as well as the president of the BJP.

By giving Rajnath prominence, it is clear that the BJP doesn't want to repeat the mistake of ignoring state leaders that it committed in Bihar.

Also read - BJP steps up Dalit-wooing, but avoids direct scrap with Mayawati

And as Amit Shah has clearly said that there has been no decision on the party's CM face in UP, Rajnath has few rivals to oppose him as of now.

When journalists asked Amit Shah after the Saharanpur rally that who would be Ram if BJP's vanvaas is to end, the BJP president replied "Don't be in a hurry. We will inform you at an appropriate time".

Rajnath & Keshav Maurya will be given prominence in BJP's publicity material along with Modi & Shah

Rajnath Singh is a Rajput face. The BJP has already elevated Keshav Prasad Maurya, an OBC, as the party president in the state. So it was clear that another key responsibility would be given to an Upper Caste leader. The BJP is banking on an Upper Caste-Backward Caste arithmetic to achieve its Mission 265+ in the state and Rajnath has been chosen to implement it.

Rajnath's biggest advantage is that he is in good terms within the party as well as with the RSS. He would be the right choice to co-ordinate between the RSS and BJP in the campaign.

He is part of the government as well and holds a key portfolio. Keeping him at the forefront also sends the message that the state is being given due importance.

Also, Modi couldn't have afforded to ignore him as it would have sent a negative signal to the Rajputs and other Upper Castes in the state.

BJP's faces in UP

In the new scenario, BJP is presenting two combinations to appeal to the voters. The first combination is Modi and Shah. Even though Modi represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha, he comes from Gujarat. He and Shah can easily be painted as "Bahari" (outsiders) by their opponents.

This is where the second combination comes into play -- Rajnath Singh and Keshav Maurya. Their prominence wouldn't be less than the Modi-Shah duo in the publicity material.

The four leaders complete the basic picture and message of the BJP's campaign in the state. Modi-Shah representing development and national concerns, and Singh-Maurya representing regional leadership and caste calculations.

Rajnath being head of the campaign committee also means that he has to invest a great deal of effort in the party's campaign. A possible competitor to Modi, he can't remain passive in a party controlled by the duo from Gujarat.

However, becoming the face of the campaign doesn't mean that he gets to become CM if BJP wins. These are two different things and Modi knows what card he should play and when.

More in Catch - Battleground UP: how Mayawati is laying the groundwork for 2017

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First published: 11 June 2016, 8:26 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.