New Delhi: After changing the chief minister in Uttarakhand and setting the stage for a revamp of the Yogi Adityanath Cabinet in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is preparing to set its house in order in the third poll-bound state — Gujarat.
BJP general secretary in charge of Gujarat, Bhupendra Yadav, will reach Ahmedabad Tuesday to attend a meeting of the BJP Legislature Party. Yadav had returned to Delhi only Sunday after a two-day visit to Gujarat to gather feedback about the performance of the Vijay Rupani-led government that has been facing flak for Covid mismanagement.
Gujarat is slated to go to polls in November-December 2022, while elections in UP and Uttarakhand will be held in February-March.
The BJP high command had earlier replaced Trivendra Singh Rawat with Tirath Singh Rawat as Uttarakhand CM in March while UP CM Yogi Adityanath met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J.P. Nadda last week, in what was said to be the final round of consultations for a Cabinet reshuffle. It’s not clear if the BJP would adopt the Uttarakhand or the UP model in Gujarat as part of its preparations for next year’s elections.
Yadav’s Gujarat meetings
Yadav had held a meeting of the party’s core committee in Gujarat Friday, in which planning for the 2022 assembly elections was kickstarted by keeping the focus on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Apart from Yadav, the meeting was attended by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, state president C.R. Paatil, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and other members of the committee.
The Gujarat in-charge also held one-to-one meetings with several other leaders Friday, fuelling speculation of some major changes at the organisational level and in the government.
“A cabinet expansion is on the cards though it is unlikely that the chief minister itself will be changed. There is friction between the CM and the state president, which only intensified and became more apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said a senior BJP leader.
“The central leadership is focusing on ironing out the differences and ensuring better coordination between the two.”
Those not accommodated in the cabinet expansion will be given key positions in the corporations, the leader added.
A second BJP leader said Yadav sought feedback on the chief minister.
“Yadavji met several leaders personally as well as in groups. He took feedback on the functioning of the government,” said the leader. “He also took feedback from leaders of different castes about the chief minister and his government. Opinion on the functioning of the state BJP president C.R. Paatil was also taken.”
The leader said the Aam Aadmi Party was also discussed in the meeting. “Apart from preparing for the third wave, the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party is also a factor,” the second leader said. “The Congress is losing its vote-bank and those may turn towards AAP and hence a strategy for that also needs to be worked on.”
Although AAP drew a blank in the 2017 assembly elections, its performance improved in this year’s local body polls, when it bagged 13.28 per cent of the vote share, making the BJP take note of it. AAP has announced that it will contest in all 182 assembly seats in next year’s elections.
Routine meeting: BJP
The BJP has, however, officially maintained the meeting was a routine one and no other inference should be drawn from it.
“These are routine organisational meetings and this is not the first time Yadavji has come to Gujarat. He is the prabhari and he interacts with the party leaders often,” said Yamal Vyas, the Gujarat BJP spokesperson.
“We are now preparing for the third wave in case that happens. At the same time, there is still a lot of time for the assembly elections but we are always preparing for it and the recent results of the municipal elections where we won 80 per cent of the seats give us a lot of confidence of doing well again.”
The BJP is facing anti-incumbency of more than two decades and its “mishandling” of Covid-19 has come under the scanner with many party leaders even pitching for a change of guard in the government.
“There was a time when the CM was changed before the elections (Anandiben). We have been in power for several years so anti-incumbency is a major factor. At the same time, Covid-19 mismanagement is also an issue,” said a third BJP leader. “Some feel that a change at the chief ministerial level can work in favour of the party in the elections but a final call is yet to be taken.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)