LUCKNOW–Shortly before the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has replaced 69 out of 98 District Presidents in Uttar Pradesh, appointing new leaders to these positions. Significantly, the BJP refrained from nominating anyone from the Muslim, Sikh, Rajbhar, and Nishad communities despite the party’s ongoing efforts to appeal to these communities to secure their votes. The BJP is concerned about winning maximum seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh. BJP does not have much to boast in South India and it failed to establish a government in any of the Southern states.
UP is critical for the fortunes of the BJP as it has 80 Lok Sabha seats. Naturally, UP is the prime focus of the ruling party. BJP was not worried till the formation of the INDIA opposition bloc. However, the crushing defeat it suffered in the assembly by-election in Ghosi at the hands of the Samajwadi Party seems to have jolted the BJP and it began a complete rejig of its District Presidents. The BJP has divided Uttar Pradesh into Awadh, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, West, Braj, and Kashi regions. It has 98 District Presidents in all.
This is the first major organizational overhaul since Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary was appointed State President of the BJP in August last year. District Presidents are usually elected in the BJP. This tradition was broken and the party nominated 69 new District Presidents in UP without conducting any internal elections.
It seems that the BJP had no faith in the ability and leadership of its old District Presidents and felt that they would not be able to deliver the goods in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. A change was on the cards. However, nobody was expecting such a drastic overhaul. The debacle in Ghosi prompted the BJP to focus on wooing both the upper caste and backward classes. Out of the 98 District Presidents, 57 belong to the upper castes (21 Brahmins, 20 Thakurs, 8 Vaishyas, 5 Kayasthas, and 3 Bhumihars).
After this, 36 are from the backward classes (Jat, Gurjar, Kurmi, Saini, Maurya, Shakya, Kushwaha, Lodhi and Pal castes). The Awadh region has seen the maximum change with 10 new faces as District Presidents of the 15 districts. The districts from Awadh, are Lucknow District, Lucknow Mahanagar, Rae Bareli, Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Hardoi, Barabanki, Ayodhya District, Ayodhya Metropolitan, Sultanpur, Ambedkar Nagar, Gonda, Balrampur, Bahraich and Shravasti. After Awadh, 9 out of 12 districts in the Gorakhpur region will have new District Presidents. Other than Yudhishthir Singh of Gorakhpur district, Rajesh Gupta in Gorakhpur Metropolis, and Jagdamba Lal Srivastava in Sant Kabirnagar, all the other District Presidents have been removed.
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi fights from Varanasi of the Kashi region, changes have been made here too, but with great caution. 10 of 16 District Presidents have been changed in the Kashi region. Vidyasagar Rai in Varanasi Metropolis, Hansraj Vishwakarma in Varanasi district, Pushpraj Singh in Jaunpur, Ramvilas Pal in Machhlishahr and Braj Bhushan Singh in Mirzapur have survived. The rest have been removed
In Kanpur region, 13 out of 17 District Presidents have been removed. Sanjeev Rajput in Etawah, Rupesh Gupta in Farrukhabad, Sanjay Singh in Banda, and Rajkumar Jain in Lalitpur have been retained. The rest were replaced.
The Western region saw sweeping changes with 16 out of 19 districts getting new appointees. Mahendra Saini in Saharanpur, Sanjeev Sharma in Ghaziabad Metropolis, and Manoj Gupta in Noida Metropolis got a chance to continue. The other 16 districts will be led by new District Presidents. In Western UP – the unity of Jats and Muslims, the anger of the Gujjar community, and the farmer’s agitation are giving sleepless nights to the BJP prompting a major organizational change. BJP is banking on the new appointees to carry it through the Lok Sabha elections.
In the Braj region, 11 out of 19 District Presidents have been removed. The eight who escaped from being sacked are Giriraj Kushwaha from Agra district, Bhanu Mahajan from Agra Metropolis, Rakesh Shankhwar from Firozabad Metropolis, Sandeep Jain from Etah, KP Singh from Kasganj, Pawan Sharma from Bareilly, Rajeev Gupta from Badaun and Sanjeev Pratap Singh from Pilibhit.
Political analysts immediately noticed that in the District Presidents reshuffle in Uttar Pradesh – the Muslim, Sikh, Rajbhar and Nishad communities have been systematically ignored. Aspiring to grab Muslim votes by dividing the community into Ashraaf (forward) and Pasmanda (backward) Muslims – the BJP failed to appoint any Pasmanda Muslim as District President. This exposes the Prime Minister and the ruling party’s repeated claims of caring for the Muslim community. Similarly, the BJP failed to appoint a Sikh as one of its District Presidents, even though the BJP gets substantial votes from the Sikh community
There are a large number of voters belonging to the Rajbhar and Nishad castes in Purvanchal. Many Rajbhars and Nishads are loyal members of the BJP. However, their community failed to find any representation among the District Presidents. This shows the BJP’s lack of trust in these communities. The BJP has an alliance with Om Prakash Rajbhar of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party and with Sanjay Nishad of the Nishad Party. The BJP wants to ally with these parties and contest the Lok Sabha elections. However, with the ghost of the BJP’s defeat in the Ghosi assembly by-election looming large, it is unable to trust the people of these castes.
The population of Dalit voters in Uttar Pradesh is about 22%. However, the BJP has only 5 district presidents from the Dalit community. The BJP nominated Buddhi Lal Pasi from the Dalit community as District President of Rae Bareli. This is to counter talks of Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge (also a Dalit) contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Rae Bareli. The party thinks that Buddhi Lal Pasi will block Dalit votes from straying towards the Congress in Rae Bareli. But the reality is that Buddhi Lal Pasi cannot even get his entire family to vote for the BJP.
The BJP has also made four women as its District Presidents. Among them, Kavita Patel Kurmi has been made the District President in Prayagraj Gangapar. Kavita belongs to the Kurmi caste who constitute a large voter base in the Ganga-trans area of Prayagraj. The BJP believes that Kavita will fetch Kurmi votes in the Lok Sabha elections. Shilpi Gupta has been made the District President of Shahjahanpur Metropolis, Urvija Dixit of Jalaun, and Nupur Aggarwal the District President of Mau.
How the BJP has shunted out its old District Presidents in Uttar Pradesh and appointed new District Presidents gives an idea of how serious and concerned the BJP is regarding the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. It is also clear that the BJP is banking on the upper castes to support it. After them, the party relies on the backward classes. The party feels these two will deliver the results it is looking for. Muslims, Dalits, Rajbhars, and Nishads do not appear to have the trust of the BJP. The party is expecting the Sikhs to remain loyal to them.
The big reshuffling of District Presidents in UP by the BJP shows it is in mortal fear of the INDIA alliance. The BJP is heavily dependent on Uttar Pradesh to sail through the Lok Sabha elections. Hence the extraordinary focus on UP. However, will UP deliver that decisive boost? Only time has the answer to that question.