BJP fighting a lost battle in UP?

BJP camp is already demoralised ahead of polls. The saffron party’s political strategy seems to have gone awry. Induction of various tainted leaders expelled from the BSP into BJP’s fold mirrors the political bankruptcy of the BJP whose tallest leader not long ago went on a nationwide anti-corruption yatra. On that note, the BJP camp either in states or at the national level appears to be divided more than ever before.   

With the induction of Babu Singh Kushwaha, Nitin Gadkari’s credibility and authority came tumbling down within and without Uttar Pradesh. Surprisingly, BJP until yesterday used to move shoulder to shoulder with team Anna in the fight against corruption but today it has embraced tainted leaders. BJP leaders and cadres are groping in the dark on the fallout of these follies on the polls. The episode shows that for the BJP corruption is only an issue to hoodwink voters.

The list of BJP leaders for and against Kushwaha’s entry is growing by the day. LK Advani, Arun Jaitly, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharati and RSS leaders, Menaka Gandhi and Yogi Adityanath are against the move while Nitin Gadkari, Ananth Kumar, Vinay Katiyar, Surya Pratap Sahi and Yashwant Sinha have supported the induction of Kushwaha into BJP. Even ally Nitish Kumar has criticised the BJP on this count.

Yogi Adityanath said, “The BJP first raised the issue of corruption on the roads and in Parliament. But now it is inducting corrupt leaders who have been sacked by BSP and SP. The BJP is also giving tickets to such leaders involved in corruption and rape cases.” RSS in its Hindi publication Panchajanya strongly criticised the BJP for inducting tainted leaders and asked the voters of Uttar Pradesh to defeat candidates facing criminal charges and those who switch sides before elections. Team Anna for the first time has said that the BJP is no different and there will be no takers for its claim that it has zero tolerance for corruption.  

BJP’s poll preparations have so far moved at a snails pace. Ambiguity about the chief ministerial candidate and most of the senior leaders in the poll fray have jeopardised the direction in which the campaign was expected to move. With no leader worth his name in sight capable of turning the tide in BJP’s favour, the party fell back on Atal Behari Bajpayee’s photographs as the face of the BJP. Announcement of the candidate list towards the fag end of the campaign has contributed to the party’s problems. Projection of many senior leaders as chief ministerial candidates has resulted in chaos. Break-up of joint understanding with BJP’s most important ally JD-U in UP over seat-sharing has further damaged the party’s poll prospects. There is also apprehension that the present rift between the two might cause some kind of ripple effect elsewhere too in the coming days.

In its quest of a credible face to attract Brahmins, BJP has asked Kalraj Mishra to contest election for the first time in his long political career and at times he is projected as the chief ministerial candidate to woo Brahmins after getting an impression that Brahmins are considering deserting Mayawati. Overwhelming support from the Brahmins to Mayawati had last time tilted the balance in her favour. Mishra in his four decade long political journey will for the first time contest from Lucknow East which has been traditionally a BJP seat.  Nitin Gadkari is making efforts to ensure he gets through easily. BJP cadre is yet unaware of which issues are to be raised and in what manner. Rajnath Singh, considered the tallest among all existing BJP leaders of the state, is more interested in national politics  while leaders like Kalraj Mishra, Surya Pratap Shahi and Om Prakash Singh are already in campaign mode in their respective constituencies.

Unexpectedly, Uma Bharti has failed to make a Hindutva wave. Bharti did try to divide the people on the issue of FDI in retail by saying that she would be the first to burn Wal-Mart in the state. Further, she attempted to polarise the minds of the electorate in the state by saying that providing reservation to Muslims is like declaring India a Hindu nation and it would divide the country once again. One may find it difficult to believe as to how reservation to others will unite the country but reservation to Muslims will divide the country?

 With the breakdown of any kind of alliance between BJP and JD-U before assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, some believe that it may pave the way for Narendra Modi to campaign in Uttar Pradesh without any hindrance. But will Modi do so when his arch rival Sanjay Joshi has been inducted in the BJP by none other than his party president. Earlier Modi did not attend BJP’s two-day national executive meet in New Delhi to register his protest against the party president’s decision to take Joshi back into the party. Even Shatrughan Sinha and Varun Gandhi are believed to be upset at being sidelined within the party and have decided to stay away from election campaigning. Varun in the past six months has stayed away from party functions and did not even participate in the Jan Swabhiman Yatra led by Rajnath Singh and Kalraj Mishra in the state.

BJP hopes that Anna’s campaign against corruption and the Congress may help it in the assembly election has now diminished because Anna is not expected to campaign in assembly polls. In his absence, BJP may try again Baba Ramdev even after he failed to strike a chord with people earlier. BJP which claims to be the party with a difference is perhaps different in one sense that despite being ardent supporter of Anna Hazare in his fight against corruption is yet open to embrace graft tainted leaders from BSP or other political parties.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2012 on page no. 1

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