Uttar Pradesh wants an entirely new dispensation, which will usher growth and development in the state, improve the law and order situation and restore social peace.
The BJP and the NDA have to put their collective best foot forward to reclaim UP.
This is a narrative which you will not find appearing anywhere in the mainstream media. The media is so obsessed with attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that it has ceased to keep an ear to the ground.
Uttar Pradesh (UP) wants change. It neither wants to give another term to the Samajwadi Party (SP) nor have Mayawati back in power. It wants an entirely new dispensation, which will usher growth and development in the state, improve the law and order situation and restore social peace.
UP politicians are aware of this hankering for change. Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal who is a minister in the Central government admitted to this in a recent interview but others haven’t spoken. They have a vested interest in keeping caste and community schisms alive or it does not serve their political masters to speak the truth.
The BJP and the NDA are the natural beneficiaries of this transformed sentiment if they get their politics right. So far, they haven’t. The BJP has been amiss in not declaring a chief ministerial candidate for UP. It is not an easy decision because the more deserving candidates are reluctant to return to state politics and it leaves the field open to neophytes and lightweights.
But sooner or later, the BJP has to come to a decision about a candidate. It cannot approach the UP polls with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a mascot. UP is electing a chief minister, not the prime minister.
A well-chosen chief ministerial candidate would insulate Modi and BJP president Amit Shah from opposition attacks and instantly turn the election from a national to a local contest. The BJP has lost whenever it elevated a state election to a national one by making Modi as a symbol. It is time it learnt to localise elections.
The BJP did well to immediately expel a party member who denigrated Mayawati. However, the misogynistic counterattacks by Mayawati’s party colleagues have not gone down well in UP. There is a sense that women are targeted in political battles. The BJP is not a misogynistic party. Women voters cutting across castes and communities would be a valuable constituency for the NDA and Anupriya Patel would make a convincing brand ambassador for the alliance with her gender.
Without a BJP/NDA chief ministerial candidate, the Mayawati issue becomes a Dalit issue, and the opposition and the mainstream media get a chance to link it nationally. The issue is local, however, and connects to Mayawati’s obsession with money, which is also a cause for concern to Dalits. A BJP chief ministerial candidate would be able to nuance the issue and perhaps even make a successful outreach to Dalits.
Without either minimising or exaggerating the Mayawati issue, the BJP/NDA must make their strongest pitch for Uttar Pradesh’s economic development. The BJP/NDA’s record in this sphere is splendid. The BJP’s scheme of economic development must be disassembled to its simplest elements for the easy understanding and consumption of UP’s electorate. The Prime Minister’s image of a moderniser and economic reformer would greatly assist his party’s chief ministerial candidate.
Finally, UP needs an administrator as able as Kalyan Singh in his heyday. In the early 1990s, the big thing was exam cheating, and Kalyan Singh put it down with an iron hand. UP is taking on the lawless image of Bihar under Akhilesh Yadav. A well-meaning chief minister, his party elders are beyond his control. With Mayawati, it will be more of the same. While she is not foolish enough to provoke a caste war, her party leaders are radically bigoted.
The BJP and the NDA have to put their collective best foot forward to reclaim UP. They need an able chief ministerial candidate. UP wants change. It is up to them to provide it.
This article was first published in the NewsInsight and has been republished here with permission.
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