The BJP feels Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi’s formal entry into politics will turn the contest in UP during the Lok Sabha polls triangular and help counter the challenge posed by the SP-BSP alliance, which poses a threat to its prospects in the country’s most populous state.
While there is concern in some quarters in the BJP that she may bolster chances of Congress candidates in some seats, the ruling party can target her on the cases against her husband Robert Vadra. Along with the dynasty politics barb against the Nehru-Gandhis, the party may fan the perception that she has entered politics because of the legal issues her husband is facing.
Asked about the challenge posed by Priyanka’s appointment as the party incharge for eastern UP, Union minister Manoj Sinha, who hails from the same region, said there was more discussion about the issue in the media than on the ground. “I know this as I have talked to about a thousand people from the region since yesterday,” he said, adding his view was firmed up after this feedback. He said these people are not BJP workers.
The BJP members said upper caste voters, especially Brahmins, in UP won’t shift to the Congress.
Party workers said the Constitution amendment in the winter session of Parliament to provide 10%quota in higher education institutes and government jobs will help the party. However, others said the perceived “dilution” of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and some disenchantment with the Adityanath government that has allegedly favoured Thakurs may lead Brahmins towards the Congress and that Priyanka may act as catalyst for this shift of allegiance.
Nonetheless, the BJP is confident that if Priyanka’s entry gives a boost to the Congress it will make the contest triangular and help the BJP. With Gandhi as the party in-charge in eastern UP, the Congress may gain ground in constituencies such as Sultanpur, Kusinagar, Pratapgarh, Kanpur and Bahraich, besides holding on to its pocket boroughs of Rae Bareli and Amethi.
PM Modi is the biggest selling point for the BJP and the party has confirmed that he will contest from his seat Varanasi, which falls in eastern UP. The BJP is also working on placating its two allies in UP — Apna Dal and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) — and is confident of taking them along in the Lok Sabha polls.
However, the BJP may have a reason to worry if the Congress and SP-BSP reach a tacit understanding on some seats where the other is not in a position to defeat the BJP. In that case, the Muslim vote would not get split.