After last month's devastating debacle at the state assembly elections, Bhartiya Janata Party had now got down to rebuilding the party in Uttar Pradesh, where the party failed to even maintain its five year old tally of 52 , which plummeted to 48.
Apart from handpicking Laxmt Kant Bajpai, a dynamic leader from Western Uttar Pradesh, to replace Surya Pratap Shahi as the party state president, realisation has also dawned on the party leadership on the futility of inducting ousted Bahujan Samaj Party leader and one time Mayawati confidante Babu Singh Kushwaha into the party. Kushwaha, whom the party tried to project as its OBC mascot during the election campaign, failed to give the least edge to the party.
What the party leadership had also realised was the faux pas of importing Uma Bharti from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, even though she had failed to make any difference to the party in her home state. Far from turning the fortunes of the party in the country's most populous state, Uma Bharti proved to be as much a disappointment as Kushwaha.
Interestingly, nearly everyone in the party was trying to distance himself not only from Kushwaha, but were also desperately disowning the man over whom they were going gaga barely three months ago when he was ushered into the party. It was only after his much presumed magic wand failed to work that the top leadership of the party decided to dump him.
However, while party leaders preferred to remain tight-lipped on Uma, the most significant remark on Kushwaha came from Surya Pratap Shahi who sought to claim, "while there is no doubt that Babu Singh Kushwaha was inducted into the party during my tenure as party president, I would like to clarify that I had nothing whatsoever to do with that decision even though there were all kinds of accusations against me that I had taken a huge amount of money to push Kushwaha's case."
Like Shahi, all other key leaders in the BJP had washed their hands off Kushwaha, who failed miserably to turn the fortunes of the party he switched loyalties to on the eve of the elections.
And with Laxmi Kant Bajpai now at the helm of affairs, the focus is now clearly on rejuvenation of the party. And evidently, he has chosen the path of confrontation with the BSP to pave way for putting the completely derailed BJP back on its wheels.
Minutes after formally assuming the office of the state president, Bajpai trained his guns pointedly at Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav by seeking to highlight, "deterioration of the law and order situation in his own constituency." Unlike other prominent BJP leaders who have so far remained soft on Akhilesh, Bajpai roared, "A series of abductions had taken place over the recent past in Kannauj, the chief minister's parliamentary constituency and no action has been taken against the culprits so far."
He also did not mince words in criticising the SP for going overboard in wooing Muslims. "What does the chief minister mean by taking a policy decision to dole out Rs 30,000 only to Muslim girls passing High School and seeking admission in Class XI?" he asked, while adding angrily, "and why should the government be building boundaries around graveyards ?"
He sought to make it loud and clear, "BJP is not going to sit silent; we will highlight how Hindus were being discriminated under the SP rule."