Lucknow: The BJP’s PM-in-waiting Narendra Modi has the biggest stake and faces the toughest challenge in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP is in complete disarray in this politically crucial state with the highest number of Lok Sabha seats (80). The party’s electoral performances over the past decade in UP have been dismal and its organisation is wracked by factionalism.
Seniors within the BJP assert that if the party has to make a serious bid for power at the Centre, it would have to do well in UP and win at least half the seats (i.e. 40) here. In 1996, the BJP seized power at the Centre for the first time on the strength of 52 seats from UP, even though the government lasted a mere 13 days. In 1998 and 1999, too, the BJP managed to form the government at the Centre because of the party’s similar performances in UP. The party lost power in 2004 when it got only 10 seats in this state. The party’s UP tally and its fate remained unchanged in 2009. This time, the BJP can hope for a turn-around in UP only if the Modi magic can consolidate the non-Muslim votes.
“It is not so much the Muslims not voting for us that bothers us. It is their tactical voting with the sole purpose of defeating the BJP that causes the real damage,” says UP BJP spokesman Vijay Pathak. “To counter this effectively, we need support from across all castes,” he adds. There is a growing feeling within the party that the caste barriers could break down with a leader like Modi in command.
Factionalism is another malaise damaging the party from within.
There are several prominent leaders, like Kalyan Singh, Kalraj Mishra and Vinay Katiyar, who are recognised even by the national leadership. These leaders have their own groups and are always quibbling over election tickets and organisational posts for their supporters.
“Problems of factionalism and caste combinations would fade into the background if Modi adopts UP as his election arena,” says a senior leader. “Modi perhaps already has this in mind. That is why he has got his most trusted lieutenant Amit Shah posted as general secretary in charge of UP,” he adds.
“We want Modi to declare his candidature from a seat in UP at the earliest,” says UP BJP chief Laxmikant Vajpayee. Party sources say Modi could contest from Lucknow, a seat ex-prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee won a number of times. Kanpur and Varanasi are the other choices being speculated upon.