Lucknow: RSS sarkaryavah (general secretary) Dattatreya Hosabale, on a four-day visit to Lucknow from Monday to Thursday, sought feedback from key state-level functionaries of the organisation on the public perception of the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in the state.
The government’s image has taken a hit in the wake of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the panchayat election results, in which the ruling party suffered a setback.
RSS functionaries told ThePrint that Hosabale emphasised “samanvay” (coordination) between the government and the Sangh.
The leader stayed in Lucknow from Monday to Thursday. His visit was watched closely because it came on the heels of a meeting held by PM Narendra Modi, which was attended by Home Minister Amit Shah and Hosabale himself, among others, but not CM Yogi. They discussed ways to “undo the damage” the Yogi government’s handling of the pandemic has caused.
The involvement of the PM and Hosabale hinted at the deep concern of the BJP high command about the public perception in UP, and a review of the party organisation and administrative situation was set up.
Whom he met and what he asked
According to a Lucknow-based RSS functionary, who did not want to be identified, Hosabale met several Sangh officials and took feedback on the organisation’s efforts during the pandemic. Hosabale, who, in his previous post as joint general secretary, was deployed at the Lucknow centre and visited numerous times a year, also participated in one RSS event at Nirala Nagar, Lucknow.
A second functionary added: “It was a closed-door meeting between Sangh leaders in the presence of the sarkaryavah. I would call it a routine meeting, where senior leaders sat and discussed the present situation and how the Sangh can play a role. It was not a political meeting. He did not meet any BJP leader.”
An RSS member, who also wanted to remain anonymous, confirmed that Hosabale met more than 50 Sangh officials, and spoke to several pracharaks on the phone too. He also met some senior RSS workers who don’t hold posts but have been working for years.
“’He asked about how the government is tackling the pandemic now… How is the situation in the rural areas? What is the common public saying about the government?” the member said.
An RSS functionary added: “In April, things were the worst, people in the government were not listening to us, they were not responding to our calls. But from mid-May, things are getting better. Ministers are also responding now. But it’s true that the UP government’s image has been dented in the pandemic. We have conveyed this to Dattareya ji also in the meeting. He has noted some points, but not said anything after that.”
Another RSS worker who attended a meeting with Hosabale said the senior leader emphasised reaching out to families of volunteers who have lost their loved ones due to Covid-19.
BJP was keeping an eye
After the buzz about the Modi-BJP-RSS meeting in Delhi, UP BJP leaders were also keeping an eye on Hosabale’s visit. But the leaders say they’re sure it will take some time for any changes to take place in the government and the party.
Party insiders claim that the Covid pandemic has brought to the fore various fault lines in its strategies. According to a BJP source, there is a feeling among the backward and the most backward classes in the party that they are being ignored. Brahmins also feel sidelined, as there is a belief that Thakurs are calling the shots in the present government. “We need to change this perception,” the source said.
A senior leader in the UP BJP organisation said: “’We were expecting that Dattatreya ji may meet some party leaders also, but that didn’t happen. There is buzz about changes, but I guess they will take time.”
A party functionary, who stressed on the significance of the BJP-RSS meet in Delhi, added: “There is a lot of social media buzz about the BJP-RSS meet, but we see the meetings as the beginning of BJP’s strategy for UP elections, slated early next year.”
One of the options being mentioned is to move Keshav Prasad Maurya out as Deputy CM, and be made UP BJP chief, replacing Swatantra Dev Singh. Maurya is seen as a strong OBC face who could help defend the party’s majority in the next assembly polls. There has also been speculation about the inclusion of MLC A.K. Sharma, considered close to PM Modi, in Yogi Adityanath’s cabinet.
BJP lawmakers’ ire at own govt
In the last one month, there have been several instances of BJP lawmakers raising their voices against their own party’s government on Covid management-related issues.
UP cabinet minister Brajesh Pathak was the first to write to the state government, in the second week of April, about the poor condition of health services in capital Lucknow.
Then, in the last week of April, Mohanlalganj MP Kaushal Kishore also wrote a letter to CM Yogi about the poor condition of ventilators in two government hospitals in Lucknow. He warned the district administration that he would go on a fast if officials didn’t work properly.
Then, in the first week of May, Lakhimpur Kheri MLA Lokendra Singh also wrote to the CM about oxygen shortage in the district, while three MLAs from different parts of Jhansi highlighted the poor condition of hospitals and alleged district officials were ignorant.
The same week, Union Labour Minister & Bareilly MP Santosh Gangwar also wrote to Yogi Adityanath, raising concerns about the shortage of medical oxygen, alleged black-marketing of essential medical equipment, and ignorant officials.
BJP MP from Kanpur Satyadev Pachauri had also written to the CM, highlighting how people in the city were dying outside their homes, outside hospitals and inside ambulances because of the absence of timely treatment.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)