Party with not much difference
The Bharatiya Janata Party has taken on itself an onerous political agenda – Congress Mukht Bharat, that is cleansing the states of Congress government. While the hoary political party itself is in a bad shape, Amit Shah-led BJP is working overtime to decimate the presence of Congress. Towards this end, they have adopted a two-pronged strategy, unsettle the government through various machinations and defeat it in the polls by all means. The bringing down of governments in Arunanchal Pradesh and Uttarakhand were indicative of the strategy number one, whereas a bigger battle is sought to be fought through a more incisive political game plan in the states going to the polls.
In Assam, the party encouraged dissidence on poll-eve though veteran Tarun Gogoi managed to save his government, his party was left mutilated and moth-eaten with many important leaders under the skipper-ship of Himanta Biswa sarma crossing over to the BJP. They had tried similar tactics in Bihar wooing Nitish Kumar’s protégé Jitan Ram Manjhi. Though Kumar’s boat was rocked for some time, he managed to give the BJP a good thrashing in the electoral battle which followed. Let us see how the Assamese voters react to BJP’s strategy in the crucial North-Eastern state.
To win polls in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, the leadership has shown no qualms in drafting services of the leaders with less than clean curriculum vitae. With crucial Karnataka state Assembly polls scheduled to be held in 2018, months ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the leadership decided to play it safe in the state. Former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, who was ousted from office and party on corruption charges, has been reinstated as the state unit chief. The move comes after the Karnataka High Court in January this year quashed charges against the Lingayat strongman in the land scam case. Accounting for 17 percent of Karnataka’s population, Lingayats deserted the BJP after BS Yeddyurappa quit the party in November 2012. Flexing muscles, Yeddyurappa had contested the 2013 election separately, causing major damage to BJP and facilitating Congress’ return to power in the southern state. He returned to the party fold in 2014 after Narendra Modi was declared the Prime Ministerial candidate. Following his return, BJP’s fortunes looked up in the state. It would not be surprising if other tainted leaders, too, are rehabilitated “honourably” in the state.
The appointment of OBC leader Keshav Prasad Maurya in the other major state of Uttar Pradesh, which goes to the polls in 2017, clearly reflects the focus to woo non-Yadav voters. Maurya, a former VHP activist, is Member of Parliament from Phulpur near Allahabad and has a “tough” image with some criminal cases also pending against him. The party in UP is under pressure to repeat its stunning 2014 Lok Sabha performance in the 2017 state Assembly polls. During the Lok Sabha polls, the party had won 71 out of 80 parliamentary seats, whereas two went to its alliance partner Apna Dal. The leadership believes that Maurya can deliver it for them though his leadership skills so far have been untested.
Quite possible that BJP’s recent experiments may deliver electorally favourable results in the short run but it would do great damage to the image of the party which claimed to be the one with a “difference”.