As it begins preparations for the 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party is relying on outsiders to win control of the state. The party’s core team for UP does not have any member from there.
Party leaders see various reasons behind the decision, such as containing “vitriolic elements”, weeding out the older generation, and promoting third and fourth generation leaders to make space for “performers” in the team.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Amit Shah, who belongs to Gujarat, was given charge of UP. He brought many outsiders to assist him.
This time, Om Prakash Mathur, a senior leader from Rajasthan, has been given charge of UP. He will be assisted by co-in-charges Ramesh Bidhuri from Delhi, Satyendra Kushwaha from Bihar, Virendra Khateek from Madhya Pradesh, Rameshwar Chaurasia from Bihar and Sunil Ojha from Gujarat. One more leader from Rajasthan, Sunil Bansal, has been made general secretary (organisation).
All these new appointees will be responsible for building the BJP cadre at the district, block and ward levels. They will also be instrumental in selecting candidates for the 2017 elections, an exercise likely to begin at the end of this year.
Mathur was in charge of the BJP in Maharashtra last year and is said to have played a key role in the party’s victory there. The BJP hopes that just as he brought it to power in Maharashtra after 15 years, Mathur will now make the lotus bloom in UP after 13 years.
But there are some in the UP leadership who are wary of the influx of new leaders. “Outsiders in the state organisation are not a new experiment, but outsiders largely remain loyal to the central leadership and don’t show genuine affection for the state,” claimed a senior leader from eastern UP. He also lamented the fact that today’s BJP was forgetting the leaders of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement like such as Uma Bharti, Murli Manohar Joshi and Vinay Katiyar. “Earlier this month, when the party organised its annual state summit in Kanpur, Joshiji was not present even though he is an MP from the city,” he complained.
State BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai dismissed such complaints as bitterness on the part of a few disgruntled leaders. “In many states, outsiders have been put in charge. This helps the party function in a more efficient and democratic way. There is no reason to feel let down by such restructuring,” said Bajpai.
Meanwhile, a BJP leader from Delhi said that the party has been trying to rein in “vitriolic” elements like Yogi Adityanath. “His statements in recent months led to the negative profiling of the party on the national stage. He has been asked not to make irresponsible comments. You don’t hear from him much these days,” he said. When contacted, Adityanath refused to comment.