Despite her popularity as a leader who doesn't mince her words, Smriti Irani is not going to be the BJP's face for the next Assembly election in UP scheduled early next year. Instead, the BJP has decided to rope in old war horse Kalyan Singh, the octagenarian former chief minister of the state, for the crucial mission.
According to a report published in Ananda Bazar Patrika, the BJP top brass is eyeing to counter Dalit icon Mayawati by bringing in Singh, who is currently the governor of Rajasthan, in the next election by making him the face of the party's election campaign. That way, the saffron party could reach out to almost 21 per cent SC and ST vote-share.
BJP falls back on 83-plus Kalyan Singh for UP
The BJP also believes that bringing in Singh, a Lodh OBC, will also help influence other backward sections who the saffron party needs to produce a commendable result in the northern state.
However, the report said that Kalyan Singh will not be made the party's CM candidate in UP for that would violate the BJP's stand against encouraging gerontocracy. Singh might be made to announce openly that he doesn't aim to be the CM and this campaign will be his last. He could return to Rajasthan as the governor after the election while his MLA son Rajvir Singh could be made the deputy chief minister, said the report.
Like Mayawati, BJP also aims a social coalition
No other face could have been more useful for the BJP other than Singh in its efforts to knit together a social coalition ahead of the UP election. Mayawati has shown in the past how her strategy to build a rainbow coalition or 'Sarvajan Samaj' brought rich electoral dividends.
The BJP needed to think out a strategy to stop the BSP chief running away with the prize this time as well, particularly when the ruling Samajwadi Party is facing a strong anti-incumbency and the Congress is no a bad shape to get its act together. The BJP might see itself as the only party which can give Mayawati a chase in the 2017 election.
BJP trying hard to keep Dalit votes with itself, despite Vemula affair
Just like Mayawati's Brahmin-Dalit-Muslim alliance, the BJP is also eyeing to put in place a social coalition. The BJP, which won a big share of the Dalit votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, is facing a challenge this time in retaining them, thanks to issues like the suicide of Rohith Vemula. But its top leaders have tried to make it up by exhibiting respect for Dalit icon BR Ambedkar, taking dip with Dalit sadhus or inagurating schemes to make Dalit entrepreuners.
BJP's OBC plans
It has also tried to woo the OBC vote-bank by making a man from their social belonging its UP unit chief. Keshav Maurya, an OBC, was brought in the place of Laxmikant Bajpai---a Brahmin---in April.
The BJP's OBC wing has also planned rallies to mobilise numerous castes that together form a big chunk. These castes are, however, not politically well organised and sources in the BJP have said that the party would favour implementation of the Karpoori Thakur and Rajnath Singh formula of splitting the OBC category into two sections---the backward and most backward so that the weaker sections would not have to compete with the better placed ones. It is nothing but a plan to bring the most backward castes from the folds of the BSP and SP.
Earlier this year, the BJP institited an OBC Morcha in each organisational unit in the party right down to the block level, across the country.
This is also seen as another attempt by the party to woo the OBC votes. BJP president Amit Shah formed the National OBC Morcha in the party in the run-up to the Bihar polls last year and following the adverses, he decided to make his OBC drive go deeper.
Though some in the party have reservations against Singh's return, the state BJP chief himself feels the former UP CM would be more handy than someone like Smriti who doesn't have much in connection with UP apart from the fact that she has maintained her link with Amethi, the constituency from where she had lost in the 2014 general election to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Bringing in an outsider in an election like the BJP had done in the Delhi election last year could invite disaster. In a key state like UP, the saffron party can't afford such a harakiri.