Lucknow: The party’s definitely greater than the government. Days after he was appointed president of the Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party, Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary echoed words that were first spoken by Uttar Pradesh’s Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Maurya’s words, spoken days before Chaudhary’s appointment on 26 August, were taken to be a veiled challenge to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Maurya was believed to be in contention for the position Chaudhary now holds.
Speaking to ThePrint, Chaudhary also said that the central and state government were working on the BJP’s manifesto.
“All workers of the BJP who have worked for a long time have always fought polls on the basis of the agenda in the ghoshna patra or sankalp patra (manifesto). The governments at the Centre and state are working at fulfilling these promises,” Chaudhary said.
Asked to clarify what he meant by saying that the party was bigger than the government, he said parties formed governments.
“Government is a result of work and sacrifice of our party workers. You see, when we first formed a political party (Jan Sangh) based on our ideology in 1951, we had in mind certain subjects,” he said.
Primary among these was the scrapping of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution — the now redundant provision that gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir — and the Uniform Civil Code. The Ram Temple was added later to this list.
“That time, our government was not (in power),” he said.
It’s this agenda that the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was first voted to power in 2014, fulfilled — first by doing away with Article 370 and then building the Ram Temple — he said.
“Under Modi and Yogi, we’ve got a chance to work and we have definitely moved towards the fulfilment of the agenda. We’ve fulfiled most and those that are left will be fulfiled as well.”
Does this mean that the Uttar Pradesh government will also set up a committee to draft the Uniform Civil Code like neighbouring Uttarakhand?
Chaudhary refused to answer directly, saying that the party will “fulfill all promises on their agenda”.
So how is the BJP going to prepare for the 2024 general elections in Uttar Pradesh, a state that has 80 Parliamentary seats? By focussing on the 14 parliamentary seats that the party lost in 2019, Chaudhary said.
“The party will make a special strategy for them and the central leadership is also serious. Visits by central ministers have started,” he said.
The BJP, Chaudhary told ThePrint, plans to target all of UP’s 80 seats in the 2024 general elections. This means winning over the 14 seats that still remain out of the party’s grasp.
For this, the party’s central leadership has already started visiting those constituencies that the BJP lost in 2019.
“In 2019 polls, we won 64 seats and lost 16 seats. Later, we won two more (Azamgarh and Rampur) in the by-polls held this year,” he said. “That brings down the seats we lost to 14.”
For these, the party’s already chalked up a plan — voter outreach, strengthening its communication, and disseminating information about the government’s work — both at the central and state levels.
“Crime and corruption were at their lowest levels in the state,” Chaudhary said, adding: “The public knows all this.”
‘No dynasty politics in municipal polls’
“The BJP, which has repeatedly attacked parties like Samajwadi Party and the Congress, has always stood against ‘parivarvad’ (dynastic politics) and the same will be followed in municipal elections in the state later this year,” Chaudhary said.
Will they ensure that it practises what it preaches?
“We don’t have reservations for anyone, definitely not for a family,” he said. “We do have reservations for workers but that has helped many people, including me. That’s why we’ve come this far,” he said.
Chaudhary said the BJP will heed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words to end dynastic politics in the upcoming municipal elections in UP.
“It is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s resolve that dynasties should be finished, that parivarvad should be finished. The one who performs better will move forward,” he said.
Asked if this policy was responsible for the loss the party suffered in the 2021 panchayat polls, Chaudhary said: “There has been no loss. BJP was successful in the panchayat polls. I think 90 per cent of the Zila Parishad, block pramukhs, and gram pradhans were those supporting the BJP. But my party definitely thought that dynastic politics must be discouraged. Stopping it is the party leadership’s intention and I will work accordingly”.
‘Several SP MLAs in touch with us’
Chaudhary claimed that several of the Samajwadi Party’s MLAs were in touch with the BJP.
“The SP formed a coalition and fought the 2022 elections with the Rashtriya Lok Dal, SBSP, and smaller parties like Mahan Dal. All of them have left the coalition after objecting to his (SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s) attitude and ineffectiveness,” he said.
Chaudhary was responding to a question on a claim he made Wednesday — that Samajwadi Party leaders were in touch with the BJP. His claim came after Yadav reportedly extended support to Keshav Prasad Maurya if he chose to break away from the BJP. Yadav’s reported offer came in the backdrop of Maurya’s “party greater than government comment”, which sparked speculations about friction within the government.
Chaudhary said Keshav Prasad Maurya was a “loyal and committed worker of the party”.
“He has worked as a worker on the party ideology for a long time and he is firm on his place. Akhilesh ji should worry about his family, and coalition aides. SP MLAs are in touch with us in large numbers,” he said.
But asked how many SP MLAs were in touch, he refused to answer, merely saying the BJP will decide what to do.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)