Debating India

BJP will have to rework its caste equations

Tuesday 25 May 2004

NEW DELHI: BJP will not admit it, but it recognises that the upper castes - Brahmins, Thakurs and Banias alike which together constitute 20 per cent of the vote in Uttar Pradesh-deserted the party in the recently concluded elections, and that the return of Kalyan Singh, an OBC from the Lodh Rajput community, also did not help much.

What BJP needs to decide when it reconstitutes its party set-up in UP next month-along with Delhi, Jharkhand and Delhi where organisational elections are due-is whether it should try to woo back the upper castes or go in for a hardline Hindutva campaign, or maybe both.

A senior party functionary said on Monday, "It is almost certain that the current UP state president Vinay Katiyar (an OBC from the Kurmi community) will be replaced by an upper caste person, probably a Brahmin. The search is on: The known state leaders have all been tested and failed. We are looking for a younger person who can be active and motivate the cadres."

BJP, party sources said, is aware that despite Congress getting just a seat less than the party in UP, it is on the comeback trail, and Rahul Gandhi’s announcement that he will focus on the state spells danger for it.

Uttar Pradesh, with its 80 LS seats of which BJP just won 10, is not the party’s only headache; other states are also causing concern.

The party’s state units which fared poorly in the elections-such as UP, Bihar, Delhi, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh-or below par-Gujarat and Maharashtra-are busy doing constituency-wise assessments to see whether there is a pattern in the losses, and with its winners and losers making a beeline to meet Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani with their own takes on the rout.

Apart from UP, organisational elections are due in Gujarat, Delhi and Jharkhand. Party sources said the assessments would determine the new state organisational bosses to be appointed next month.

Of Gujarat, whose state leaders met Advani on Sunday, a party functionary said, "We did not slip from 21 to 14 because Hindutva is losing its appeal in Gujarat. The murder of former state home minister Harin Pandya, CM Narendra Modi’s abrasive personality, the clash with our Bharatiya Kisan Sangh... all took its toll." But he ruled out replacing Modi.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

in The Times of India, Tuseday, may 25, 2004.

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