Desperate to revive its political fortunes in Uttar Pradesh — a must if it wants to win the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 — the Bharatiya Janata Party has tried to jog old memories, presenting Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its face in the State while again committing itself to building a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Delivering the opening address at the party’s two-day national executive committee meeting that began here on Friday, president Nitin Gadkari devoted more than a page to eulogising Mr. Vajpayee, recalling that it was he who had said that the road to Delhi passes through Lucknow. In the Assembly elections due in the State next year, the BJP must put its best foot forward.
Mr. Gadkari said quite frankly that the party did not have a replacement for Mr. Vajpayee, who has represented Lucknow several times in the Lok Sabha.
In fact, on the sidelines, party workers pointed out that the problem in the BJP was two-fold: factional fights and lack of a credible tall leader. The projection of Mr. Vajpayee is being seen as a weakness as it is an admission that the party has no one else to project.
At the very start of his speech, Mr. Gadkari said the BJP “re-dedicates itself to the ideals of Ram” and commits itself to building a “grand Ram temple.”
He admitted that in the last round of Assembly elections, the party’s performance was “less than our expectations,” blaming its poor showing in Assam on the lack of Opposition unity.
While most of his political attack was on the Congress for corruption and for eroding the federal structure of the polity, Mr. Gadkari did not have much to say about the Mayawati government here, except that the BJP would not align with either the Bahujan Samaj Party or the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh “before or after the elections.”
He pointed out that these parties had helped the Congress, at different times, when it was in a fix — for instance, the BSP members voted with the government at the Public Accounts Committee meeting to finalise the 2G spectrum allocation report. In short, the effort was to project the BJP as the “real alternative” to the present regime in Uttar Pradesh. His charge was that the Congress and the SP were in fact in a cosy relationship: it was “dosti in Delhi and noora kushti in Lucknow” (friendship in Delhi and a fixed match in Lucknow).
Party leaders noted that Mr. Gadkari failed to attack the ruling party here, instead mainly engaging the Congress on issues it has flagged for the past two years: corruption and the high prices of essential food items and other commodities.
A day after Chief Minister Mayawati announced a new land acquisition policy, Mr. Gadkari’s take on the subject seemed a bit too late: the price for the land bought from farmers should be above the prevailing market rates; an annuity should be given to them; employment for at least one member of the family of the farmer whose land is purchased; adequate relief and rehabilitation measures; and a share of the developed land.
Party general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad noted at a press conference that 36 per cent of India was ruled by the BJP or by its coalition partners. The Centre should be aware of this. The Congress traditionally favoured centralisation, and it was eroding the federal structure by its step-motherly attitude to disbursement of resources, and through the actions of Governors holding up legislation passed by the legislatures.
Mr. Gadkari said the BJP would bring out a vision document for Uttar Pradesh, which ought to get a better government for its speedy development to come out of the list of BIMARU or backward States. Hindu