BJP leaders look for sops in the futuristic Union Budget to woo the electorate in UP
Even though Union Finance minsiter Arun Jaitley presented a futuristic budget on February 1 by focussing on the poor, farmers and the middle class, it has failed to enthuse BJP activists. This is particularly so with regard to the most crucial poll bound state of Uttar Pradesh where voting will be held in seven phases. The disappointment pertains to the budget not having anything to enthuse the voters.
The Election Commission of India had specifically urged the BJP led NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to announce any concessions for the five states going to the polls from today, the fourth of February. Apart from UP the other states where assembly elections are being held are Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa. The results will be announced on March 11.
Lotus party leaders believe the budget exercise was aimed at ensuring Modi gets elected for a second term two years hence in the 2019 general elections. It is apparent they are jittery about the prospects of the BJP in UP in the light of the chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's SP having reached an agreement with the Congress which has managed a good deal of 105 seats for itself. The remaining 298 in the 403-member state assembly will be contested by the SP.
The patriarch of the regional party Mulayam Singh Yadav has said he will not be campaigning for the SP as he was not in favour of having a truck with the Congress. Simultaneously, Shivpal Singh Yadav, the sulking brother of 'Netaji' as Mulyam Singh is known is trying to create confusion by talking about floating his own party after the assembly elections are over.
At the same time SP sources are categoric that there is no rift between father and son despite the bitter feud and upheaval in the SP to take control of the party. Now that Akhilesh has been backed by a significant majority of the legislators as well by the youthful supporters in the state, his pre-eminence as the chief ministerial candidate for a second term in Lucknow has been established. He has subsequently been anointed the national president of the SP.
Given these fast paced developments in UP, the BJP has to once again bank on the charisma of Modi to pull the chestnuts out of the fire in Uttar Pradesh. Whether Modi retains that magic evidenced in the 2014 elections remains to be seen though he has a busy schedule ahead criss crossing UP addressing rallies.
A Prime Minister's honeymoon ususally lasts 30 to 36 months and Modi has already completed 32 months. People have borne with fortitude the multitude problems arising from the bold November eighth demonetisation. However, their patience is now running thin having been tested for far too long.
The nervousness in the BJP ranks in UP is palpable. This is reflected with the names of three of its sidelined leaders -- Murli Manohar Joshi, Varun Gandhi and Vinay Katiyar -- being included in the list of campaigners for the second and third phases. The party has suddenly woken up to Joshi being a prominent Brahmin leader and wants to exploit his impact on the community.
Varun has kept himself away from campaigning in UP. Sources said he wanted to be projected as the chief ministerial nominee and now party strategists want to minimise the damage he can cause the party. Katiyar a backward class leader in the forefront of the Ram Temple movement has been ignored for many years.
Winning UP is critical for the saffron brigade as that will set the stage for the 2019 general elections. The BJP is still smarting from its defeat in the Bihar assembly elections in 2015 considered a battleground state in the Hindi heartland. Meanwhile, Punjab, an important state bordering Pakistan, and Goa are having a one-day poll on February 4. The campaign ended in both the states on Thursday.
The stakes are indeed high in Punjab for the SAD-BJP combine, the Congress as well as the Aam Aadmi party which appears to have regained lost ground in the last few months. One wonders if political pundits, psephologists and others are able to grasp the mood of the electorate this time. The last time in 2012 everyone fell flat on their face. A three cornered contest is unusual in Punjab. While the Congress has old war horse in Capt Amarinder Singh spearheading its campaign, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal remains the chief ministerial face of the Akalis for the sixth time. Its a high stakes battle which can go to the wire despite the angst against the SAD."