Anticipating widespread dissidence after the announcement of its list of candidates in Uttar Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party has begun a massive exercise to pre-empt a possible surge of anti-party sentiment by unsuccessful ticket aspirants and sidelined leaders, which could cloud the party’s prospects in the crucial Assembly elections in the state.
The BJP is expected to release its first list of candidates on January 15 and complete the process by January 17. The Uttar Pradesh polls will be held in seven phases in February and March.
The BJP leadership has started talks with leaders who may revolt if their recommendations are not considered in the distribution of tickets. BJP MPs and other senior party leaders in Uttar Pradesh have also been told that they may be hauled up if their protégés turn rebellious on being denied party tickets.
As a part of this pre-emptive exercise, BJP president Amit Shah held an hour-long meeting with the party’s Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath on Thursday.
“In the meeting, Amit Shah tried to persuade Yogi to work actively for the party even if the party’s choice of candidates differs from that of his own in Gorakhpur and neighbouring districts,” a senior BJP leader aware of the development said. “Yogi, however, refused to make any commitment, and the meeting remained inconclusive.”
The leader added that Shah and Adityanath are likely to meet again on January 16 or 17.
Eye on Adityanath
Yogi Adityanath, the BJP’s hardline face in the state, has been sulking for quite some time after the party thwarted his ambitions to be projected as its chief ministerial candidate, denied him a berth in the cabinet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and even kept him out of the party’s state election committee that was constituted in the last week of December. In fact, all this seemed to have left Adityanath so enraged that last week, when he was denied permission to speak at the BJP national executive in New Delhi, he skipped the last day of the two-day event on January 7.
Adityanath wants to have a say in the candidate selection for nearly 24 Assembly seats in eastern Uttar Pradesh, and has made it clear that his recommendations must not be overruled in at least eight of these constituencies. Of these eight seats, five are part of the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency. Adityanath wants the other three tickets – Nautanwa in Maharajganj district, Siddharth Nagar in Dumariaganj district and Bansgaon in Gorakhpur district – to be handed to three senior office bearers of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, Adityanath’s personal outfit through which he has tried to retain complete dominance in Gorakhpur and its neighbouring districts in eastern Uttar Pradesh independent of the BJP and its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. These office bearers are the Vahini’s Uttar Pradesh president Sunil Singh, its state co-ordinator Raghvendra Pratap Singh and general secretary Ram Laxman.
According to insiders in the BJP, the party leadership is also likely to talk to some other state leaders who might be feeling sidelined and could, therefore, be potential threats to the party’s election efforts in the politically-important state.
Jostling for tickets
Shah has also conveyed to BJP MPs and other state leaders that those whose recommended candidates revolt if they fail to bag party tickets will be expected to take some responsibility for the revolt.
The message may appear innocuous to outsiders, but there are at least 10 to 12 serious contenders for BJP tickets in almost every one of Uttar Pradesh’s 403 Assembly seats. Most of these aspirants have been recommended by one or the other senior party leader.
According to party insiders, Shah has asked Om Mathur, the BJP national general secretary in charge of the state, to prepare a list of MPs and senior party leaders along with the candidates they have recommended so that the party can keep an eye on their activities at the time of elections.
Though it is not clear what kind of punishment the party brass has envisaged for sulking leaders who do not contribute to the party’s poll efforts or whose protégés turn rebellious, it is obvious that the BJP fears widespread dissidence in its ranks once it announces its list of candidates in the state.