The ‘party with difference’ and its ally Apna Dal had won 73 of the state’s 80 seats in 2014, and is willing to change about 20 candidates in order to retain that number in 2019
By Asit Manohar
Eight months before the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has started elaborate planning to try and repeat its unprecedented 2014 performance in Uttar Pradesh. Based on an internal report, the party is willing to change its candidates on about 20 seats.
The BJP and its ally, Apna Dal, had won 73 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats, reducing the Samajwadi Party (SP) to five, the Congress to two, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to zero. This played a huge part in Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister with a clear majority in 2014.
Last month, BJP general secretary in-charge of organization Ram Lal, addressing party workers of the Avadh region in Lucknow, said they needed to work hard to match the performance, which party chief Amit Shah has termed ‘Mission 73’.
Sources in the UP BJP told that the plan was to field some ministers from Yogi Adityanath’s state government as Lok Sabha candidates. This, they said, would neutralise the impact of anti-incumbency. The fact that the new candidates would be familiar faces would also help.
“Some ministers have shown interest; we also have plans for some others,” said a UP BJP office bearer who did not wish to be identified. “However, the final decision will be taken by our national president Amit Shah.”
MINISTERS IN FRAY
State health minister Siddharth Nath Singh is one of those who has expressed interest in contesting from either Allahabad or Phulpur Lok Sabha seat. Singh, grandson of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri (who represented Allahabad twice in Parliament), is the MLA from Allahabad West, which falls under the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat. In 2014, Keshav Prasad Maurya had won Phulpur for the BJP; he later vacated the seat to become deputy chief minister in 2017, and the BJP lost the seat in the by-election earlier this year.
Stamp and civil aviation minister Nand Gopal Nandi also wants to contest from Allahabad; he had contested in 2014 on a Congress ticket and lost. He switched to the BJP ahead of the 2017 assembly polls and won from Allahabad South.
Seven-time MLA and industrial development minister Satish Mahana is in the reckoning for the Kanpur Lok Sabha seat. Mahana had contested from Kanpur in 2009, but lost to the Congress’s Sriprakash Jaiswal. Mahana won the Kanpur Cantt assembly seat five successive times between 1991 and 2012. In 2012, he switched to Maharajpur, and has won it twice.
Shrikant Sharma, energy minister and MLA from Mathura, is eyeing the Mathura Lok Sabha seat currently held by actor-turned-politician Hema Malini. State BJP leaders feel that the public perception is against Hema Malini and she could be replaced. Sharma had also tried for the Lok Sabha ticket in 2014.
DIVIDE AND RULE
Apart from pitching state ministers familiar with the public, BJP is also planning to target OBCs other than Yadav and SCs other than Jatav as SP is largely known as party of Yadavas while Mayawati is a Jatav. By doing this, the BJP is planning to make SP and BSP as party of the caste their respective leaders belong. So, like the UP Assembly Polls, the BJP is planning to share seats with its small caste based various parties and divide the SC and OBC block.
Therefore, to counter Akhilesh Yadav, BJP is targeting other than Yadav OBC caste like Kahaar, Kashyap, Kewat, Nishad, Gond, Bhar, Prajapati, Rajbhar, Bind etc. In fact, the UP government led by Yogi Adityanath has recommended the centre to add 17 more castes into the OBC category in the state. These castes include Kahaar, Kashyap, Kewat, Nishad, Gond, Bhar, Prajapati, Rajbhar, Bind, Batham,Turha, Manjhi, Mallah, Kumhar, Dheevar, Dheemar and Machua. If the UP government’s recommendation is allowed by the Centre (which looks likely by end of 2018), then it would be a master stroke to counter the rallying of OBCs and Dalits with the SP-BSP alliance as both parties are at daggers drawn on the issue.
The BJP is planning to divide the 82 OBCs into three categories so that all caste can get equal benefit of the 27 percent reservation meant for the OBCs stipulated under the Mandal Commission. Commenting upon the UP government move over the OBC reservation, senior cabinet minister O P Rajbhar and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party chief said, “The 27 percent quota will be divided into three categories: pichhada (backwards) with four castes, ati pichda (very backwards) with 19 castes and sarvadhik pichda (most backward) with 59 castes.” This categorization of the OBC would pose serious challenge to the dominance of Yadavas, SPs most reliable vote bank since its inception.
In fact, official sources said the state government was preparing to recommend shifting of 17 OBC castes in Scheduled Caste list and the Centre this time was all set to accept it by removing legal irritants. This move of the UP government fortifies our information that UP BJP is targeting other than Jatav SCs under its divide and rule tactics, which paid huge dividends to the ‘party with difference’ during UP Assembly Polls.
Vote share of the OBC in UP is 40 percent which includes 8 percent Yadavas while SC vote share is 20 percent out of which Jatavas are around 11 percent. Muslims are around 17 percent. BJP has a loyal vote bank of near 36 percent which consists of Brahmins (9 percent), Thakurs (6 percent), Tyagi-Bhumihar (2 percent), Baniya (2 percent), Jat (2 percent) and others (1 percent), Kurmi (3.5 percentage), Lodh (2.5 percent), Koiri-Kachhi (3.5 percent), Mallah-Kashyap (2.5 percent), OBC Baniya 2 (percent). So, consolidation of other than Yadav OBCs and other than Jatav SCs would hold key in 2019 Lok Sabha Polls and both BJP and ‘Grand Alliance’ are trying hard to reach out to the voters of these castes.