New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah on Sunday warned his party’s legislators in Uttar Pradesh from making controversial statements ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In a closed-door meeting with his lawmakers, Shah asked them to visit their constituencies and make people aware of the government’s development initiatives as well as welfare schemes, sources said.
Emphasising on the need for sustained efforts at the grassroots level to ensure a re-run of the saffron party’s victory in 2014, the BJP president told the MLAs and MPs to visit every village of their area and have tea at least 20 households as part of the outreach initiative.
Shah’s caveat assumes significance in the wake of recent reports that the BJP is in the mood to deny tickets to more than half of the sitting MPs from Uttar Pradesh.
According to the sources, the BJP chief in particular cautioned Sangeet Som, Hema Malini, Suresh Rana, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sanjeev Balyan and Rajendra Agarwal during the meeting.
Joshi, a veteran BJP leader, has rarely paid a visit to his constituency Kanpur and there are reports of growing resentment against him.
Actor-turned-politician Hema Malini has been in the limelight for her controversial statements, which the BJP fears may cost it dearly in the elections. The BJP MP from Mathura recently said she could become the chief minister “in a minute” if she wanted but she did not want to “be tied down”. Earlier, she had blamed population for the Kamala Mills fire in Mumbai, which killed 14 people. Som, Rana and Balyan are accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case in which 62 people lost their lives.
The BJP’s two-pronged strategy to ensure victory in the state involves increased emphasis on the development narrative and more reliance on the brand of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It is through this plan that the party now looks to counter the unique consolidation of Dalits, backwards and Muslims emerging at the opposition front of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress and other smaller parties in the state.
Sources within the BJP say ever since the Kairana debacle, it has been worried about working out its counter-strategy against a united opposition in UP.
The saffron party is aware that the ‘Road to Delhi’ passes through Uttar Pradesh, with the state holding the key to 80 Lok Sabha seats. Hence, the leadership wants to avoid controversies and instead focus on development as its poll plank for 2019.