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Learning from defeat in recent Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is acting promptly to put its house in order before the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. As a first step in the direction, BJP president Amit Shah Wednesday appointed the party’s in-charges for the Lok Sabha polls for 17 states, drafting in Union minister Prakash Javadekar for steering the campaign in Rajasthan and Thawarchand Gehlot, another minister, for Uttarakhand.
The choice of the leaders is reflective of the BJP’s approach ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha. In most cases party has seemingly reposed faith in old faces who are experienced in taking charge of the election campaign in Shah’s style. Take a look at the names chosen for some of the states.
Rajasthan: Rajasthan was one of the three seats the BJP lost out to Congress only recently. The rising unpopularity of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, both within and outside the party was cited one of the reasons why the saffron party lost the state election, despite frantic campaigning from party top brass, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah. Javadekar, a disciplined soldier with his beliefs firmly entrenched with the RSS, has been tasked to put the house in order in Rajasthan, where the next challenge that BJP faces is choosing a Leader of Opposition, who in essence will be the face of the party in the state ahead of 2019.
This, at a time when Raje’s unpopularity within party cadres and the tension between her and the party’s central leadership is out in the open. Yet, BJP has not been able to establish an alternative for Raje in the last five years, say top party sources. The party is mulling over the names of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to lead the BJP’s charge in the state ahead of 2019. Javadekar, a softspoken man, yet an effective communicator, will be tasked to bring all on board and pick a leader acceptable to most people in the party, apart from steering the party cadre to curate a win in Lok Sabha polls.
Uttar Pradesh: The BJP has picked Govardhan Jhadapia, Dushyant Gautam, and Narottam Mishra to steer the charge Uttar Pradesh, a politically crucial state for the BJP, where it is likely to face a tough challenge from a prospective alliance of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Jhadapia is a leader from Gujarat, Gautam is a party vice president and a known Dalit face, and Mishra is a Brahmin leader from Madhya Pradesh.
Bihar: BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav is a seasoned politician and a senior worker of the party who has maintained a consistent performance in various roles he took on for the party. Electorally, more recently, Yadav delivered a win in Gujarat despite anti-incumbency and an increasingly hostile campaign by Congress in the run up to the state elections. Reports say that Yadav has been honed and mentored by Shah himself, and he was handpicked for the job of Gujarat state election in charge. Before this, Yadav had been the BJP election in-charge for Rajasthan in 2013, Jharkhand in 2014 and Bihar in 2015. While Bihar did not go the way, the BJP would have liked, Yadav delivered results for his boss, Shah, in Rajasthan (2013 polls) and Jharkhand.
It was based on his track record that Yadav has been chosen a second time to lead the campaign in Bihar, despite a previous failure. By now, Yadav — originally from Rajasthan — understands the caste equations in Bihar and the agrarian economic distress that has distanced rural voters from the BJP. He will have to deliver the party’s message to the last mile. Then there’s the task of working out the nitty-gritties of working out the seat sharing formula with NDA allies like Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Even though a rough numerical formula of seat sharing is ready, it will be up to Yadav to chalk out a plan with the party allies to decide which seat goes to which partner, and thereafter restrain the dissidents who may be dropped out to favour LJP and JD(U).
Chhattisgarh: BJP has appointed Anil Jain, a former Rajya Sabha MP and party vice president, as the state in charge for the Lok Sabha elections on the directions of Shah. Jain’s appointment has surprised many as he was the state election in-charge in the recent Assembly polls too in which the BJP faced a crushing defeat. After 15 years of staying in power, BJP could win only 15 seats in the state. However, the party chose to repose faith in Jain despite that as he understands the nuances of the Naxalism-hit state. Moreover, the party seems to blame the complacency in former chief minister Raman Sigh’s government and anti-incumbency as factors behind loss.
However, Jain had played an important role in the campaign to reach the booth level in the Assembly elections. This ensured that he was popular among booth level workers and ground force of the party, which is a useful trait in a state election in charge. In view of this, the central organization has given the responsibility of Lok Sabha to Jain instead of going with a new in-charge.
Apart from the above, Rajya Sabha member V Muraleedharan and party secretary Deodhar Rao will be in-charge of Andhra Pradesh. Mahendra Singh and OP Mathur will be in-charge of Assam and Gujarat respectively.
The BJP has also appointed in-charges and co-incharges for several other states, including Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Punjab, Telangana and Sikkim among others.