Allahabad, BJP’s holy grail in its U.P. dreams

ALLAHABAD,NISTULA HEBBAR:It has been a while since the Nehru-Gandhi family held sway in their ancestral home of Allahabad. The man who represents India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s constituency of Phulpur, Keshav Prasad Maurya, is now the chief of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, and it is from here that the party, holding its national executive, hopes to launch its bid to form a government in the State in 2017.

The irony in that proposition, with respect to this meeting, is the ubiquitous presence of posters prominently featuring Nehru’s great grandson and Sultanpur MP Varun Gandhi dotting the city. The posters give as much space to his picture as it does to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s.

Poster war

Mr. Gandhi has been revealed to be popular in various surveys carried out by the party in the State, but remains at odds with the party organisation and its current leadership. His (undeclared but ever present) claims to being the most deserving of the chief ministerial candidates from Uttar Pradesh has not gone down well with the party high command. Mr. Gandhi’s claims may be resolved in some way or the other by the party, but it has brought into sharp relief the fact that the BJP is rather short on strategy, leadership and focus for the U.P. polls. After the spectacular victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, where it won 71 out of 80 seats, the varying electoral fortunes of the last two years — humiliating defeats in Delhi and Bihar and some solace in Assam, mean that the U.P. polls are an uphill climb. Recent performances by the Bahujan Samaj Party in by-elections and local polls show that the party is making a quiet comeback after drawing a blank in 2014.

According to party general secretary Bhupendra Yadav, the BJP is encouraged by the results of the just-concluded Assembly elections in four States and one Union Territory, where the party managed to form a government in Assam and opened its account in Kerala.

“A strategy for all five States [Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur] going to polls over the next year will be discussed at the executive,” he said.

Important decisions

For Uttar Pradesh, that would mean taking important calls like whether to project a chief ministerial face, which social coalitions to appeal to and how much to play up communal polarisation. As of now, Mr. Yadav said, the party was demanding a judicial and fair probe into the Mathura cult firing incident. Over the next two days, the party will discuss and deliberate on these issues.

Camp office to stay in touch with PMO

The Bharatiya Janata Party has set up an elaborate camp office to ensure that Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not lose touch with events outside the venue of the party’s National Executive at the Kayastha Pathshala here. Some officials from the PMO (personal staff) will be travelling with the Prime Minister who will spend two days here.

A hotline between the camp and the actual PMO has also been set up.