Amit Shah resurrects former Gujarat minister to protect turf in UP

BHARATIYA Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah is under fire after the party’s defeat in the three crucial Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Considering the clout that he enjoys as the party’s boss and his proximity to the prime minister Narendra Damodardas Modi, the voices of dissent have been rather subdued with Nitin Gadkari being the lone minister to air his feelings about the loss. It’s a different thing that some ministers and many MPs have gone into sulking mode.

One of the fallouts of the poll outcome is the complete revamp of party’s organisational structure by Amit Shah. With an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has appointed new in-charges for 17 states, including the most crucial Uttar Pradesh where the man picked for the job has raised eyebrows.

Gordhan Zadafia, former Gujarat minister, who had fallen out with Modi, has been given the charge of driving the BJP’s strategy in Uttar Pradesh (which accounts for 80 Lok Sabha seats) where the stakes are the highest for the prime minister to return to power. Remember that the BJP won record 71 seats and with ally Apna Dal consolidated 73 in total.

Zadafia, who was close to BJP leader Sanjay Joshi who had been sidelined by Modi, had remained at the periphery ever since he floated his own political outfit Gujarat Parivartan Party.

Zadafia has worked with Modi for more than 30 years and his comeback is spectacular in more sense then one. By picking a man who was questioned by the special investigation team (SIT) on the Gujarat riots, the BJP has sent a clear signal about its strategy in the communally sensitive Uttar Pradesh, a state that was swept by the BJP in the last Lok Sabha elections followed by the assembly polls.

But setbacks in by-elections have forced the party to alter its strategy. The BJP is still trying to devise a plan to counter a unified opposition in the form of BSP-SP-Congress, which came into being after Assembly elections defeat, that romped home in the by-election in the state. With Zadafia in the ranks, one can expect more attempts at polarisation of Hindu votes. He will work in tandem with Hindutva mascot chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

In the organisational reshuffle, national general secretary Bhupendra Yadav has been appointed in-charge of Bihar and Anil Jain goes to Chhattisgarh where the party had suffered a humiliating defeat in the recent assembly elections. Party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi has been given the responsibility of Rajasthan, another state where the BJP lost power to the Congress. The newly appointed team will have an uphill task in keeping the party infrastructure well oiled for the Lok Sabha elections. In states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the biggest challenge will be to ensure that the party does not lose out many seats. The BJP had nearly made a clean sweep in these three states in 2014 Lok Sabha elections riding the Modi wave. With the dent in its vote share, the party will have to work hard to ensure that losses are minimum.