Poorvanchal Elections: It’s High-Stakes Battle for BJP
BJP shifts its UP campaign HQ from state capital Lucknow to PM’s LS constituency Varanasi Rahul, Akhilesh Roadshow in Varanasi
New Delhi: BJP has shifted its UP campaign headquarters from state capital Lucknow to Varanasi, PM Modi’s constituency, which goes to the polls on March 8.
Party chief Amit Shah is expected to spend most of his time in Varanasi till the end of campaigning as part of BJP’s strategy to maximise its chances on 89 seats of Poorvanchal (eastern UP), which will vote in the last two phases of the election on March 4 and March 8, party workers said. They said the party’s increasingly aggressive poll pitch is also part of this strategy.
Shah arrived in Varanasi straight from his roadshow in Allahabad on February21andmayholdabigroadshowintheholycityonthelastdayof campaigning on March 6. A rally of thePMhasbeenplannedinVaranasi onMarch3,whichwillbefollowedby two more rallies by the PM in MirzapurandJaunpur. BJPplanned tofielditsstarcampaignersafterCM Akhilesh Yadav and Congress veep Rahul Gandhi held a joint roadshow in Varanasi on February 27.
Theparty’scampaignhasacquired a more aggressive edge, with Shah coining the acronym ‘Kasab’ for Congress, SP and BSP, and Modi’s comments on ‘Kabristan-Shamshan (graveyard-cremation ground)’. “Eastern UP is now our stronghold, with Yogi Adityanath strong in the GorakhpurregionandPM’spopularity in the Varanasi region. Sweeping the89seatsinPhase-VIandVIIiscrucial to us for crossing the magic mark,” a senior BJP leader said.
Citing an internal assessment, BJP strategists said they were confident that the party will finish as the single largestpartydespitethe“setback”in the first two phases of election in western UP. A spectacular showing in Poorvanchal could still tilt the scales for a majority, a BJP leader said, even as the party had won just 11 seats out of 89 in 2012, behind SP that won 50 and BSP which won 14. Congress had then won seven seats.
BJPhadwonjustoneoutof thenine seats in Jaunpur, three out of the eight seats in Varanasi and none out of the 10 seats in Azamgarh. In Gorakhpur, the party won just three out of the eight seats. However, the party is banking on its good showing in 2014 general election, when it swept17outof the18LokSabhaseats in Poorvanchal, barring Azamgarh, which was won by SP patriarch MulayamSinghYadav.AseniorleadersaidBJP’svoteshareinAzamgarh rose from 10% in 2012 to almost 33% in 2014, almost equal to that of SP. In Varanasi, BJP won a whopping 53% of the votes in 2014 while in Jaunpur it almost tripled its vote share to 39% in2014.BJPishenceaimingtoretain this vote share in Poorvanchal. “With the Quami Ekta Dal and Mukhtar AnsarijoiningtheBSP, Muslim votes are set to split in Poorvanchal amongst BSP and SPCongress,”apartyleadersaid. Union health minister JP Nadda has also reached Varanasi to camp there. Shahisholdingextensivesessionsin Varanasi with BJP leaders and party’s Poorvanchal MPs after flying from Varanasi for public meetings. “F l y i ng t i me i s s hor t e r to Poorvanchal areas from Varanasi than Lucknow. Hence, Shah will camp here,” a BJP leader said. Union home minister Rajnath Singh, Deoria MP Kalraj Mishra, Mirzapur MP Anupriya Patel and Smriti Irani will also be holding public meetings in Poorvanchal.
Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav will hold a joint roadshow in Varanasi on
taking the battle to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency. Preparations for the roadshow are in full swing and leaders of the Congress and the Samajwadi Party have been camping here for the past few days. Varanasi goes to poll in the last of the seven-phase assembly election in Uttar Pradesh on March 8. The route of the roadshow of Congress vice-president Gandhi and UP CM Yadav will be finalised soon, state Congress spokesperson Satish Rai said.
Rajnath, Kalraj, Anupriya & Irani to also hold public meet