Rumours travelling through political circles have a life of their own in the power corridors of Lucknow. But the visit of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders from Delhi to the state capital and a series of meetings involving senior state government ministers seem to have settled one issue: that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath remains the unchallenged leader of the BJP in the state and that he will be leading the party into the Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections in 2022.
A Tuesday night tweet by BL Santhosh, the BJP’s National General Secretary (Organisation), praising the CM’s “effective management” of the Covid-19 situation over the last five weeks has virtually quashed all rumours about change of leadership in the state. The BJP’s UP in-charge, Radha Mohan Singh, in fact termed such a theory a “figment of someone’s imagination”. Both of them spent the last two days in Lucknow and took part in closed-door meetings. All pointers indicate towards Adityanath continuing to enjoy the full backing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The assessment at the Centre is that Adityanath is the party’s best bet in UP, as he remains hugely popular because of his governance model, hard work on the ground and clean image — which have earned him the trust of the top BJP leadership.
But some key changes both in the party unit and the UP Cabinet are on the cards. “A cabinet reshuffle has been pending and some fresh inductions could happen to balance out caste equations further, while some ministers may be brought into the organisation to strengthen the party before the UP polls,” a minister in the UP government told News18. The visit by Santhosh is also said to have given an opportunity to state BJP leaders to vent out their grievances to him and speak freely of the challenges before the party ahead of the 2022 state elections. But no more should be read into it as everyone knows Adityanath remains the unchallenged leader, he said.
One senior minister at the Centre did concede, on the condition of anonymity, that a reason behind sending the BJP team to Lucknow was “mixed reports” about the Covid situation and concerns that if this caused a setback of sorts in the recent panchayat elections. Also, the idea was to review preparations ahead of the assembly elections. UP will be the first major state to go to polls after the devastating second wave of Covid in the country. But the handling of the pandemic in the last one month by the CM, and him spending 26 days travelling across UP — which coincided with a record drop in the number of cases, as pointed out by Santhosh in his tweet — seem to have dented the criticism on this count. There had also been adverse statements by a few BJP legislators. “This is more an issue of improving co-ordination between the organisation and the government. When you have over 300 MLAs, there will obviously be some who would be unhappy over not getting important posts or adequate attention,” a state BJP functionary reasoned.
Adityanath also remains the most prominent face of the party, with other senior BJP leaders no longer a part of active state politics, except Keshav Prasad Maurya. The BJP, in the last elections in UP, had multiple faces to attract votes from all caste bases, including Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra, Manoj Sinha and Maurya. But Adityanath emerged as the most-sought-after campaigner and was ultimately chosen as the CM. Rajnath Singh, as the Home Minister then, was not inclined to come back to state politics as the CM. Manoj Sinha has been sent to Jammu and Kashmir as the Lieutenant Governor, while Kalraj Mishra is in Rajasthan as the Governor. Maurya continues in the UP government as the Deputy Chief Minister.