With the announcement of the first list of candidates by the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) for the 2017 Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, the pressure has started building up within the BJP to expedite the restructuring of the organisation in the state. As it is, the party is nowhere in the reckoning as far as preparations for the 2017 election are concerned.
The SP has released the list for those constituencies from where it had lost the 2012 election. While some of those who had unsuccessfully contested the election are included in the list, most of the nominees are first-timers. The list of 143 names for the 403-member Assembly indicates a reliance on the tested Yadav-Muslim combination, with a fair sprinkling of other castes. There are 27 candidates from Muslim community, 18 from Yadav and 12 women. Of the 143 seats, 21 are reserved. The party has not considered 76 candidates who had lost the 2012 election while the others have been repeated.
The announcement of names has created pressure on other parties to do the same, as an early announcement obviously gives sufficient time to the candidates to embark upon their people-connect campaigns. Backed by the advertising blitzkrieg, the ruling SP expects to keep several paces ahead of its rivals, even though the party has given hints that the list could be revised in days to come. Already, some voices of protest and resentment have started rising over some names in the list. Within hours of the list being announced, one change was made in the nominee for Rampur (reserved) constituency in Saharanpur district.
Among the significant names are those of a Peace Party MLA Anisur Rahman as SP nominee from Kaanth (Moradabad), Umar Ali Khan, the son-in-law of Shahi Imam Maulana Ahmad Bukhari of Jama Masjid from Behat, independent MLA Vijay Singh from Farukhabad, and former minister Ambika Chaudhry, who was dropped from the ministry, from Phephna in Ballia.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had named its candidate for several constituencies a few months ago even though it has not yet come out with an official list. The candidates have been directed by the BSP president Mayawati to intensify their grassroots campaigning. Reports from many districts indicate that the BSP candidates have been going from village to village in their attempt to reach out to the voters. The recent indications from a survey that the BSP stands a fair chance to emerge with the largest number of seats in the election has enthused the party leaders and candidates.
The Congress party, on the other hand, has started the exercise of identifying its candidates in right earnest with the newly-hired strategist Prashant Kishore having invited feedback from party leaders which is to be submitted by March 31. Kishore had attended a meeting in Lucknow on March 10 when district leaders had been given a 14-page form to be filled and submitted. The leaders have also been asked to identify at least 20 dedicated party workers in each district who would eventually be given the responsibility of handling the local campaign. Kishore's strategy is being discussed among Congress leaders in Lucknow and elsewhere as being a sureshot way to plan a fail-proof campaign to ensure a surprising comeback for the party.
It is only the BJP where no significant preparations for its Mission-2017 are visible. The state party president Laxmikan Bajpai has been serving as a 'working president' for the last many onths even as the party's national leadership is taking its time to decide on the new president. As a result, other office bearers of the state BJP, too, are unsure whether they would continue in their posts.
While officially Bajpai has been asked to continue on his post, a meeting of state's office bearers has been called on March 31, followed by a meeting the state executive on April 1. Recently, the party's UP-incharge Om Mathur had come to Lucknow and addressed a meeting in the party office in which Bajpai was reportedly not invited. Bajpai had reacted sharply at his exclusion and the incident had once again pointed to the prevailing factionalism in the party.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who is the MP from Lucknow keeps visiting Lucknow frequently, and party president Amit Shah had also visited Lucnow a few weeks ago to inaugurate the new party office. The uncertainty over the party's long-awaited reshuffle despite the close watch of party leaders is causing serious concern among party workers. According to one leader, most of the BJP MPs in Uttar Pradesh are not taking active part in party functions and activities except for those who are Union ministers. On the other hand, some of them are known for their statements and speeches which cause embarrassment to the party. "In such a situation we really do not know how we will get ahead of our rivals in the run-up to the election," said the leader wishing to remain unnamed.