It has been more than six weeks since the BJP's top leadership agreed that Minister of State for Railways, Manoj Sinha, will take charge of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the party. However, the delay in the announcement indicates that all is not well within the state unit of the party.
Sources say some senior leaders in the Narendra Modi government and state BJP leaders have raised objections to Sinha's name. They prefer Dharmpal Singh, an OBC leader.
Chief among the voices backing Dharmpal is Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the party's tallest leader from the state. The same suggestion has come from the BJP's organisation secretary Ramlal and the party's state in-charge, OP Mathur.
"Mathur, who is very close to Amit Shah and has been seen as a close aide to Modi, has a different view on the UP state president as the top leaders. Mathur is more interested in a person who can deliver better results in the state and, as the in-charge, he wants to go in for a person who fits the criteria of caste as well as a connect with the people," a senior Lucknow-based BJP leader told Catch.
Rajnath, who hails from Chandauli district, is not keen for another leader to rise from the eastern part of the state. Rajnath, a Rajput, also doesn't want to pass the baton to another upper caste face from the same belt.
"He is one of the senior-most and tallest active leaders of the party in the state. In the circumstances, it's not easy to go with someone who is not on Rajnath's wishlist," the leader explained.
Uttar Pradesh will vote for a new Assembly by January-February next year. Political parties are already in campaign mode, and leaders are meeting people and are in the process of taking key decisions.
In such a scenario, it was important for the BJP to take a decision early and announce it, so that the new president could start taking charge and implementing plans.
But the delay and the uncertainty surrounding the appointment is likely to hurt the BJP. Uttar Pradesh is being seen as a virtual semi-final before the 2019 general elections, and the BJP is hoping its performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, where it won 73 of the 80 seats, can be replicated. At present, it has just 47 MLAs in the Assembly.
In January, when Shah's term as party president was coming to an end, there was intense speculation that the BJP's spectacular failure in Bihar would cost him his job. But he got a fresh term on the assurance that he would handle the party's affairs in UP personally, and deliver 2017 for the BJP. Soon after his election, it was expected that a new UP BJP president would be announced.
But that didn't happen. A dozen-strong list was narrowed down, and two of the finalists for the position were Dharmpal and Sinha.
Dharmpal has a lot of positives in his favour from a party perspective. He is low-profile and active at the ground level; he's well connected to the party workers. He has served the organisation for a long time, and his OBC status is an obvious advantage.
However, the fact that his name has been backed by Rajnath and other senior leaders is a matter of concern for the Modi-Shah camp, who want their own loyalist installed in the chair. Sinha is a loyal lieutenant of Shah, which is why he was viewed as the front-runner for the presidency.
There's another big factor working against Dharmpal - the fact that he belongs to the Lodh community. Former UP CM and current Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh and Union minister Uma Bharti both belong to this community, and have opposed Dharmpal. Neither of these senior leaders is in favour of somebody else from the community emerging as a strong leader - it makes them uncomfortable and insecure.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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