Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fresh from UP glories, Amit Shah's next draws are roadmap for Gujarat, Karnataka

By Nirendra DevNew Delhi, Mar 12 (UNI) Post securing a massive victory in Uttar Pradesh and other key states, BJP President and party's chief poll strategist Amit Shah's priorities now would be ensure a comfortable return to power in Gujarat and also wrest Karnataka, the southern and only big state still left with the Congress. "It is not to merely to talk about the big picture, these elections and party's victory in Uttar Pradesh only makes us talk about the grand picture," BJP leader Sudhanshu Trivedi said. 

Elections are due by November-December in Gujarat, the backyard of both Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but it may not be a simple cakewalk as the saffron party has lost considerable support base in last few months.
         Having faced a major anti-BJP campaign by Patels (or Patidars) -- onetime a cardinal force behind BJP's support base in the western state -- the party chose to replace its Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in August last year.
         "Winning Gujarat too will be very vital as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's entire political graph and developmental plank is based on the Gujarat model. We are a battle-ready party always and more so for Gujarat," a party leader said.         BJP's challenge has increased in the state as the battle is no longer confined only against the Congress.
         By 2015-16, on one hand, Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Admi Party has tried to establish the toehold in Gujarat while on the other - all eyes would be on the Patidar community and a mere – 1993-born 23-year-old Patel boy Hardik Patel.

In July 2015 Patidar youth, many of whom are surnamed ‘Patel’, started public demonstrations across Gujarat demanding Other Backward Class (OBC) status for their community, which would entitle Patidars to a reserved quota of places in government jobs and education. Social media also helped to spread the protest quickly across the state. Protest meetings by Patidars soon were reported from Devbhoomi Dwarka, Gandhinagar, Navsari, Jam Jodhpur in Jamnagar district, Himmatnagar and Bagasara in Amreli district and in Rajkot.
         According to an estimate, in 55 days, as many as 149 rallies were organised throwing a major challenge to the 'Moditva phenomenon' in Narendra Modi’s own political backyard, said an AAP leader. Pressure to deliver Gujarat to saffron party kitty will be more with Mr Shah ostensibly because the incumbent Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani himself has a low-profile stature in terms of electoral battle.

Besides managing numbers in the Rajya Sabha and making forward movement for Presidential elections due by July 2017, Amit Shah will also give his focus to the southern state of Karnataka, where BJP ruled from 2008 for five years but was voted out of power rather convincingly in 2013.
There was a weird political situation in Karnataka in 2013 when corruption charges against B S Yeddyurappa hurt BJP's image immensely. Out of 117 BJP members in 225-member assembly, at least 20-30 of them were against the saffron party owing allegiance either to Yeddyurappa or another regional party floated by B. Sriramulu, a former BJP minister and a confidant of mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy. 

It was ironical to a large extent that the saffron party, which hyped itself to believe that it's a party with a difference especially on the issue of corruption vis-a-vis Congress, was handed over defeat in May 2013 where more than anything else the principal issue before the electorate was corruption and misgovernance. Even party veteran L K Advani embarrassed the party top brass time and again when he used to say that 
'corruption' issue in Karnataka showed people "don't seem to trust us either".
      Politically, the BJP is, in the meanwhile, set to play the influential Lingayat- caste card to the hilt and has already taken back Yeddyurappa into the party fold.

Yeddyurappa, who was forced to resign in August 2011, has been acquitted by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and is now working overtime to expand party's base. It is now given to Amit Shah's political anchoring and Yeddyurappa's persuasive skills that Congress veteran and former External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has quit Congress and is now set to join the BJP on March 18.
Mr Krishna too is a respected Lingayat face. 
The Lingayat community comprises as much as 17 per cent of the state's population, a majority of which reside in politically crucial northern Karnataka. The community also runs hundreds of socio-religious mutts which again have considerable influence on the electorate.
Actually Diggy helped BJP
But BJP apparently still remains weak in the vokkaliga caste-dominated districts of Bengaluru rural, Mandya, Hassan and Chikkamagaluru. The Lingayat community is known for their assertive politics and has in the past even allegedly deserted Congress for shabby treatment meted to Veerendra Patil in 1989.
      Next February-March (2018) elections are also due in three northeastern states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura.
      Amit Shah-led outfit will be certainly emboldened with party's good show in Manipur in the recent elections. At present BJP is in power in Assam and in Arunachal Pradesh.

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