Rattled by the continuous lacklustre performance in Uttar Pradesh for more than a decade, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to put its best foot forward in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections this time. It is preparing to unleash in the state the charisma of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has emerged as a poster boy of Hindutva.
The party's leadership has already sent scouts' teams to Allahabad, Varanasi and Lucknow to spot opportunities for Modi to be presented at public gatherings, besides meetings with college students where the Gujarat chief minister could focus on developmental politics and interact with the youth rather than focus on communal divide. This is proposed to be followed by a nationwide yatra, led by Modi, later in the year.
"BJP aims to make the most of Modi, so he will be strategically used in Uttar Pradesh and metro cities in other states, where he will hold public meetings and interact with students. The idea is to organise interactions similar to the one with students of Delhi's Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) recently," a BJP leader said.
Senior leaders of BJP say experimenting with fire-brand leader Uma Bharati and Kalyan Singh has not worked for the party, with its electoral performance not improving in the state. If Modi is projected, "surprise victories" could follow in Uttar Pradesh.
"We have been visiting Varanasi, Lucknow and Allahabad to look for opportunities where Modi could interact with college students and people. Uttar Pradesh voters have changed over the past decade; the issue of Ram janmabhoomi will not yield electoral benefits any more," the BJP leader added.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the party had managed to win only 10 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh. This number makes BJP look like a shadow of its former self, especially if one compares it with the 1998 general elections, in which the party had bagged 46 seats in the state. The BJP leadership admits the party's performance in the state has deteriorated gradually: After 1998, BJP had won only 22 seats in 1999 general elections.
"For BJP, the big picture would be winning at least 200 seats in the 2014 elections if it wants to form a strong and stable coalition government. It knows it will not get 272 on its own. So, if it has 200, it will be easier to get allies together," said the BJP leader.
He explained, though the party would not name Modi as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, the people of the state and the country would understand, if BJP comes to power after the Lok Sabha elections, there is a good chance of Modi leading the party to form the government.