OBCs at centre stage as BJP radically overhauls Uttar Pradesh unit
Ahead of 2024 polls, party in no mood to loosen grip over critical state that elects at least 80 Lok Sabha members
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has begun radically overhauling its organisational network in politically critical Uttar Pradesh to streamline its caste matrix in a bid to sweep the next Lok Sabha elections just nine months away.
The plan to facilitate its electoral social engineering was initiated at the national executive meeting of the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit earlier this year. “The entire effort started after Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda met party officer bearers of Uttar Pradesh. Amit Shah gave us a target of winning 75 of the 80 seats in 2024,” said a BJP leader and former cabinet minister in the Uttar Pradesh government.
The BJP is in no mood to loosen its grip over Uttar Pradesh as the state sends a maximum of 80 Lok Sabha members. In 2014, the BJP won a whopping 72 seats and picked up 62 in 2019.
“It was decided that the party would change all the zonal presidents and also start the process of changing the district presidents of all 98 political districts of Uttar Pradesh,” said another BJP leader in Lucknow.
Wherever it is felt necessary, the district presidents will be changed after assessing their performance. BJP leaders believe that the announcement of the new office bearers will be made soon.
It has also been decided that the organisational changes would be made according to the electoral strength of the BJP and with a clear focus on the appointment of leaders of the other backward classes (OBCs). The other criteria for changing the district presidents would be those who have completed two consecutive terms.
Describing the OBCs as the backbone of the BJP in both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the party leader said the community solidly backed the party in both the 2014 and 2019 general elections.
Apart from one or two OBC communities, all the others are said to be ardent BJP voters. “So, they will gain importance in the organisation and also during ticket distribution,” the BJP leader added.
To further consolidate its voter base, the process of organisational changes at the grassroots level started in July when the central leadership changed all six zonal presidents of the party in Uttar Pradesh.
Of the six new zonal presidents, three are from the non-dominant OBC community. BJP leaders say their biggest support comes from the non-Yadav OBC community. Accordingly, the BJP has given a substantial share of organisational responsibility to leaders of the non-Yadav OBC community.
The zonal presidents of Kashi, Bundelkhand and Mathura zones are all non-Yadav OBCs. The BJP has divided the state into six zones. Three of them are headed by the non-Yadav OBC community.
The presidents of the remaining three zones are upper caste leaders. “The idea is to consolidate the entire voter base before the elections,” the BJP leader added.
The party has also tried to pacify the dominant Jat community in western Uttar Pradesh by making Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary, the minister of panchayati raj in Uttar Pradesh, the state party president.
BJP leaders said a section of Jats has been unhappy with the BJP since the time the Union government tried to implement the three farm laws.
The farmers’ protest that continued for almost one year in 2020-21 was spearheaded in the state by the Jats, who plays a decisive role in western Uttar Pradesh politics.
Political analysts feel that apart from social engineering, the BJP is also relying on service delivery and populist schemes of the Central government to mop up votes.
“Service delivery and the use of direct benefit transfer are two of the biggest strengths of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The party will also benefit from the schemes of the Union government like housing for all, a reduction in the prices of cooking gas and construction of toilets. Social engineering is one of the many strengths of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh,” said AK Verma, director, Centre for the Study of Society and Politics, Kanpur.