BJP’s “feedback” drive before UP polls amid concerns over Yogi Adityanath

Lucknow: A series of meetings in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP faces a critical election next year, signals the party’s concern over criticism heaped on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s handling of the Covid crisis.

Two BJP leaders from Delhi, BL Santosh and former Union Minister Radha Mohan Singh, started meeting UP ministers in Lucknow yesterday in a two-day “review” exercise.

Santosh, the BJP’s national general secretary of organization, and Singh, have also met with Yogi Adityanath and will speak with his two deputies. Sources have rubbished speculation that the three will be replaced ahead of the polls.

A BJP press release said the leaders were reviewing the work done by the party for Covid relief across the state in the last few months and earlier.

The Yogi Adityanath government’s response to the Covid surge in recent weeks has drawn sharp attacks on social media and is the target of a sustained campaign by opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh who allege that the state government’s perceived mishandling caused a large number of deaths in the second wave.

Images of bodies floating in the Ganga river or buried in shallow graves beside it from many districts in UP have generated international headlines. The UP government has hit out at the reports, accusing the media of misreporting the situation, and claim that the Chief Minister has constantly been on the ground touring the entire state.

Among the ministers that the BJP leaders from Delhi have met is state Health Minister Jai Pratap Singh. Sources say both Santosh and Singh discussed ways to further publicise the government and the party’s Covid response among the masses.

But there have been several reports of the party’s MLAs and MPs airing grievances against their own government to the media.

A BJP legislator in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district, 80 km from Lucknow, said last week that lawmakers like him did not really count and too many statements to the media may lead to a ‘sedition’ case against him.

“I have taken many steps, but ‘vidhayakon ki haisiyat kya hai (what stature do MLAs have?)’. If I speak too much, then sedition charges may be used against me,” MLA Rakesh Rathore said when asked about efforts to operationalise a government trauma centre in a building that had been ready for years.

Sources say the BJP team from Delhi is also tasked with assessing what went wrong in recent Panchayat elections in the state; the results that showed big losses for the BJP in its strongholds signal trouble for the party as it preps to fight for reelection in the state in less than a year.

The BJP had a setback in local body elections in Ayodhya and Mathura — seen as grassroots-level feedback ahead of polls. In Gorakhpur, the home turf of the Chief Minister, the BJP went neck-and-neck with the Samajwadi Party.

Of 68 seats in Gorakhpur, the BJP and Samajwadi Party both won 20 seats each, the Independents won 23. AAP, Congress and the Nishad Party won one seat each and the BSP two seats.

Out of 40 seats in Ayodhya, the BJP won only six. The Samajwadi Party led by former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav cornered 24 seats. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party got five seats.

In Mathura, the BJP could manage only eight of 33 seats. The party that had the maximum number of seats – 13 – was Mayawati’s BSP. Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Samajwadi Party got one seat each.

Though panchayat elections are not contested on party symbols, the candidates are backed by various political parties.

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