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BJP starts damage control exercise in event of adverse verdict in U.P & Punjab
By Brij Bhardwaj
As the voting in elections to five State Assemblies have progressed, BJP leadership has started a damage control exercise claiming that these elections are not a referendum on the issue of demonetisation or the performance of the Central Government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party leaders now claim that these elections are being fought on local issues and the performance of party in power in the State.

This is obviously a departure when local bodies elections in Chandigarh and Maharashtra were claimed as an endorsement of demonetisation by Modi Government. It is not an easy task as Prime Minister is the face of BJP in these State polls as BJP has no candidate for the job of Chief Minister in states of U.P and Uttrakhand. Mr Modi has also been projected as main campaigner and vote catcher for BJP. So much so that election posters feature pictures of Prime Minister and party chief Amit Shah prominently, while the State leaders are in the background.

BJP has not projected any local leader as candidate for Chief Ministership as no leader has appeal across the State. As a result some of the leaders like Swami Adityanath are sulking and in some cases have extended their support to rebel candidates. In U.P and Uttarakhand BJP is facing large scale rebellion as party has given preference in ticket allotment to Party hoppers who had joined party at last minute instead of old faithfuls. BJP is also not sure of outcome in view of Jats who had voted for them in block in 2014 are deserting them this time and an alliance between Samajwadi Party and Congress which has consolidated minority vote.

Under the circumstances it is no surprise that BJP has started a damage control exercise to protect the image of Prime Minister and the Central Government. It is no secret that BJP in changed circumstances has become highly dependent on Mr Modi to win polls. In States like Haryana and Maharashtra in which poll took place immediately after 2014 Lok Sabha elections, this formula worked and after winning unknown faces were made to occupy the Chief Minister office.

This, however, failed in Delhi and Bihar and is also becoming a major handicap for BJP in States going to polls like U.P and Uttrakhand. Some in BJP blame this on plenty and the fear that selection of any particular candidate could lead to resentment among others turning them into rebels or sulking and refusing to campaign. This has been the trend in Congress party also in the past as the State leaders were often blamed for any set back while Central leadership got credit for gains.

The Central leadership ruled changing State leaders at will with the result that state units and leaders over the years became non-entities while those with backing by party High Command were given importance. This incidentally was considered as one of the major causes for the decline of the Congress party. But in politics no one learns any lesson from history and same mistakes are repeated.

Bhartiya Janata party which earlier boasted its collective leadership and democratic working is now being ruled by two leaders on top while others have been sidelined. Even when leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K Advani were at top they could not give party tickets to persons of their choice from outside, but this has changed under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah who have given tickets in large number of turncoats.

In case the poll results does not justify this policy and turncoats fail to deliver as they did in 2014 Lok Sabha poll, many may question the leadership of Mr Modi and Mr Amit Shah. Afterall there are many senior leaders in BJP who are not happy in the manner they were retired. Some of them questioned policies like demonetisation. BJP had in the past has made a point of nurturing its cadre which has been its strength and not on charismatic leaders.

As such, the results of State polls in 2017 will probably set the agenda for opposition but also for BJP. It may return to collective leadership in case of adverse verdict as a setback from its peak performance in 2014 has become almost a certainty.

(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)


News Updated at : Tuesday, February 14, 2017
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