Uttar Pradesh being the most populous state in the country holds an important position in national politics. The state offers maximum representation in both the Houses and hence, ongoing General Assembly Elections are said to be the ‘game-changer’. Bhartiya Janata Party has gone all out with their election rallies, campaigns, and marketing stints to woo the people. On BJP hoardings across UP, there are four state-level faces apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah. Yet, none of them have been declared the chief ministerial candidate, even till now!
BJP has turned this parliamentary election into a presidential one, with Narendra Modi being their star campaigner. Till last year, Keshav Prasad Maurya, who was an almost unknown face outside his constituency, was promoted to state party president to woo the Maurya and OBC vote. Maurya is now a little more active now, but lacks the charisma of a chief ministerial candidate which people of Uttar Pradesh are looking for.
Rajnath Singh is the most decorated party leader from Uttar Pradesh. A Thakur by caste might have the capacity to sway upper caste groups but he has himself declared that he has no intentions of leading the state. So, is BJP just using his face value on the posters to polarize a certain section of the society? Following him is Kalraj Mishra. Interestingly, his age contradicts Modi’s statement of having aged leaders in politics. The 75-year old is a Brahmin, again a populous caste in the state. Are we being given a false hope, yet again? The fourth face is that of Uma Bharti’s, belonging to Lodh community, an OBC sect.
Apart from these, BJP has multiple options, which they are showcasing in different areas, as per the preference of the people. For instance, Yogi Adityanath is banking on his appeal in Gorakhpur and a strong backing from RashtriyaSwayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Or Smriti Irani, with her background in bollywood, has been working her charm on the people. Everyone has their own slogans, their teams, and conclaves to woo the voters.
There is a strong feeling among the BJP leadership that stressing too much on Thakurs may strip the party of the support of Brahmins, who account for nearly 60% of the upper caste population in Uttar Pradesh.It is clear that BJP is facing a dilemma and are being questioned by the public. Declaring a CM candidate at this stage would upset the carefully constructed social coalition of upper castes and non-Yadav OBCs that the four faces represent. Admits a party spokesperson, “If we make a Thakur the candidate, Brahmins and OBCs may move away; if we make a Maurya the face, the upper castes may get alienated. We have to be everything to everybody for now.”But what is also true is that the party does not have a strong local face in the same league as the others.“We do not have a local face to counter either Akhilesh or Mayawati, I admit. But we have Modiji. If we win, it will be in his name,” says an MLA from a Purvanchal constituency, as he visits different localities in his area.
Whereas, others are saying that Modi and Shah, do not wish to see strong leaders emerging in different regions. And that is exactly what has happened. 15 years and still BJP does not have a face or development work to show in the state!