Delhi: After the good showing in Assam Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is eyeing the state of Uttar Pradesh and has begun preparing for it.
The UP polls are scheduled to be held in 2017 and is crucial for the BJP in many ways.
As per a report in India Today, BJP chief Amit Shah is already busy chalking out his party's tactics. In order to get the caste mathematics right in the Hindi heartland, Keshav Prasad Maurya was roped in as party's state unit president with an eye on the backward vote bank.
This is said to be the first move of 'social engineering' the BJP is keen to get right in the state.
Moreover, BJP reportedly decided to send Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to Rajya Sabha from Jharkhand and bring Shiv Pratap Shukla, a known Brahmin face of the party in UP, in his place because of caste equations.
In the past, in the last ten years, 80 to 90 percent of BJPs district chiefs in Uttar Pradesh have came from forward caste (Brahmin or Thakur). Now, in a sign of changing times, out of the latest list of 94 district presidents, 44 belong to backward or extremely backward castes, 29 are Brahmins, 10 Thakurs, nine Vaishyas and four Dalits, as per the website.
UP has 35 percent vote of Yadav, Jatav and Muslim combine.
For the BJP, remaining 65 percent of vote share is what they would be hoping to tap into and thus the move to strike a balance between backward and forward vote bank.
As per the report, the BJP is also planning to dent BSP's core vote bank.
In order to do that, it has targeted luring extremely backward castes and Amit Shah's rally of the Rajbhar community in Varanasi last year was aimed at that. Saffron party leaders have also reportedly suggested giving ten seats to Ashok Rajbhar's Bhartiya Samaj Party or persuade him to merge with the BJP.
To be noted is the fact that the BJP is already in alliance with the Apna Dal (it has a sizeable backward caste support).
Further, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, probably to target Buddhist voters, flagged off Brahm Chetna Yatra from Varanasi on April 24. Interestingly, he had at that time promised to build a Buddha statue, taller than the ones in Bamiyan in Afghanistan, if BJP came to power in UP.
On 26th May (the day NDA government completed two years in power) Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a mega rally in Saharanpur. It was seen as sounding the poll bugle by the BJP in UP.
And on May 31, Shah had a meal with a Dalit family in Jogiyapur village in Sevapuri Assembly segment in PM Modi's Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency. Shah, who was on his way to Allahabad to address a farmers' rally, took a brief halt at Jogiyapur village and had lunch with the family of Girjaprasad Bind and Ikbal Bind, who belong to the Dalit community, Sanjay Bharadwaj.
Meanwhile, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav hit out at the BJP leader, stating that the Shah had lunch with the Dalit family with an eye on the UP Assembly polls, as per PTI.
However, BJP has still not finalised a CM candidate. India Today quoted sources as saying that Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Mahesh Sharma are the top runners but as per party insiders Shah and PM Modi are not keen on these two names.
On May 25, the Shah had said that the party had not decided if it would project a chief ministerial candidate for UP.
He had also said that the ruling Samajwadi Party would be the BJP's main rival.
"The Samajwadi Party is the main challenge in Uttar Pradesh as it has strong base and its cadre is also comparatively staunch," Shah had told a select group of journalists in the national capital.
Asked if the party had decided to replicate in Uttar Pradesh its model of projecting a CM as done in Assam, the BJP chief had said "we have not decided what to do," as per IANS.
Asked if the option was open, he had said, "Yes."
On the Ram temple issue, Shah had that it figures in the party's manifesto.
Following its debacle in Bihar Assembly polls last year, the BJP had projected a chief ministerial candidate in Assam and won the polls along with its allies.
(With Agency inputs)