Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to edge Murli Manohar Joshi and Lalji Tandon out of Uttar Pradesh politics by pressurising them to take gubernatorial positions elsewhere appears not to have worked, because both the regional BJP heavyweights are determined not to give up active politics, highly placed sources said.

Modi was hoping to get these leaders out of UP before Parliament's Budget session begins on July 6, the sources said.

“Joshi and Tandon have both turned down the offers,” said a senior leader of the BJP considered close to Joshi, adding that the Modi camp had nevertheless not given up.

For the past month, Modi has been working to implement a two-pronged strategy: to fill Raj Bhawans around the country with senior members from his party and thus remove BJP heavyweights who might challenge him, particularly in regions that are central to his long-term plan, such as Uttar Pradesh, insiders said.

UP is one of the most crucial states for the BJP. It did very well there in the general election, winning 71 of its 80 seats, but that was mostly on the back of a Modi wave. The dynamics of a state election, due in 2017, will be different.

Modi senses that the party's traditional vote base of upper castes – Brahmins and traders – may not be enough in a regional contest. The party also needs a considerable chunk of voters from the so-called Other Backward Classes category.

Modi would like to win OBC votes without destabilising its core base, but this requires delicate maneuvering. It will be all the more difficult if hostile party leaders associated with the BJP’s core vote base in the state remain politically active.

Joshi is the BJP’s Brahmin face in UP, while Tandon is one of the most prominent leaders from the trading community. Joshi, who was BJP president between 1991 and 1993, is known for nurturing old allegiances. In the general election, Modi moved him from Varanasi, from where he had won in the previous general election, making him contest from Kanpur. During the campaign, Joshi hardly appeared outside Kanpur and was not seen in Varanasi, the focus of Modi's campaign.

The 80-year-old Parliamentarian may not exude the youthful enthusiasm that Modi has made a prerequisite for membership to his inner circle, but he still has the capacity to polarise sections of the party’s cadre and vote base in UP, especially among Brahmins, who constitute about a tenth of the state's population. Moreover, along with Advani, Joshi is a potential destabilising axis against Modi in the Lok Sabha.

If Joshi is the face of Brahmins, Lalji Tandon is the leader of trading community in UP. A protégé of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Tandon commands respect in Lucknow and nearby. Vajpayee represented Lucknow for four terms consecutively, but in 2009, when he was completely bed-ridden, Tandon became his natural successor and won the Lok Sabha seat for himself.

In 2014, however, the party leadership gave his seat to party president Rajnath Singh. Tandon was reportedly not happy about this. He later passed this off, asserting that he was a disciplined soldier of the party, but those close to him say he is still smarting.

Yet, he still wields considerable clout within the party and its supporters from the upper castes and trading communities. The Modi camp views him as another potentially destabilising factor in UP.