The battle for Uttar Pradesh will now be fought by two Gujarat leaders for their respective parties, reports Saroj Nagi
On Sunday, when Bihar grabbed the headlines because of the Janata Dal-United’s decision to end its 17-year old marriage with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, the real story was unfolding in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh where, as part of its organisational reshuffle, the Congress gave Madhusudan Mistry the charge of overseeing the party’s affairs in the key Hindi-speaking state.
Mistry’s appointment comes within days of the BJP entrusting the task of rejuvenating the saffron brigade in UP to former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah, who is known for his proximity to Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Indeed, when BJP president Rajnath Singh made Shah a general secretary of the party and then assigned him the task of handling UP, the signal was clear, that Shah’s mentor, Modi, would be elevated as election campaign committee chief.
Mistry, like Shah, is from Gujarat. He had represented Sabarkantha in the 14th Lok Sabha. He earned the onerous task of reviving the organisation in UP after he impressed Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi by winning Karnataka for his party. The party bosses were particularly happy that he was able to get the faction-ridden party to put up a united front against a divided BJP in the elections in a state where it has been out of power for seven years.
Mistry, a tribal leader who joined the Congress in the mid-’90s along with Shankarsinh Vaghela, is a member of the Rahul Gandhi-led election coordination committee for the 2014 general election and heads one of its three sub groups.
The two Gujarat leaders -- out to raise the fortunes of their party in the state which is dominated by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ruling Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party -- are as different from each other as chalk from cheese.
If Shah is aggressive and brash and is known for his organisational abilities, Mistry is low profile and, if the Karnataka experience goes, spends his time trying to find common ground between the contending factions in the state.
It will be a battle to watch out for when the two leaders start their campaign to win back the state for their respective parties. Both have a long haul before them. The Congress has been out of power in UP for over two decades now. The last chief minister the BJP had in UP was Rajnath Singh in 2002. Since then, it has been fighting a losing battle in the state.
After winning 57 Lok Sabha seats in 1998, the BJP suffered a steady decline. It could win only 10 seats in the 2004 and 2009 general elections and 51 and 47 seats in the 2007 and 2012 assembly elections. The Congress’s vote share tumbled from 18.25 pc in 2009 to 11.63 pc in 2012 when it could win only 28 of the 403 assembly seats.
Shah has already made his first tour of the state and is believed to have chalked out a 10-point roadmap for his party which includes a meticulous and detailed plan of tightening the party’s management of booths. Mistry too will have to chalk out his strategy.