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

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

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

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