Of all the major political parties, the BJP alone has not declared its presumptive Chief Minister for the crucial Uttar Pradesh election. Change could be in the air. Sources say that over the next few weeks, extensive surveys and field work will be carried out to determine just who the BJP should pick as its nominee for heading India’s most populous state.
As always, the BJP’s efforts will be in sync with its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh or RSS. Source say that last night, BJP president Amit Shah met with Bhaiyaji Joshi, No 2 in the RSS.
They reportedly concluded that the BJP will benefit from contesting Uttar Pradesh with a Chief Ministerial candidate, rather than wrapping the entire campaign around top leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Next steps: the BJP and the RSS, which has a vast matrix of grassroots workers, will collect feedback, and then send it for analysis to the top leadership, who in turn, will swap notes.
“We expect that the results of the two surveys will be the same…(but) it’s going to be a complicated exercise. And there still maybe a situation where the BJP will go without a (Chief Ministerial) face ,” said a senior BJP leader, asking not to be named.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the ruling Samjawadi Party will seek re-election; the Congress has picked former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as its nominee; and Mayawati will ask for another shot as Chief Minister on behalf of her Bahujan Samaj Party or BSP.
The Samajwadi Party’s main support comes from the Yadav caste; the BSP counts on the Dalits; the Congress, by picking Mrs Dikshit, is appealing to Brahmins. The BJP’s leadership says that because it has done best when combining upper castes with other backward castes, selecting a candidate is a risky venture – the choice could isolate large and important swathes of voters.
In the national election of 2014, a section of the Dalits and other backward castes pedaled over from BSP and Samajwadi Party to the BJP, but this time the party is struggling to retain their support without alienating it traditional upper caste supporters.
The BJP is also concerned about being punished by voters for the recent attacks on Dalits in BJP-governed Gujarat and in other parts by cow vigilantes, a slur that dents the effort made by the Prime Minister to highlight his party’s commitment to honouring Dalit icon and founding father Dr Br Amedkar. Dalits form a significant part – nearly 21 per cent – of the population of Uttar Pradesh.
While the impending surveys are awaited, BJP leaders also point out that similar checks in recent months have pointed to cadre support for leaders like Varun Gandhi, and the findings were dismissed by the party as not conclusive.