Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi has become the hub of the BJP’s final push to capture power in Uttar Pradesh with party chief Amit Shah and his key aides camping there to drive its campaign for the last three phases of the polls.
The election in the 141 remaining constituencies in the 403-seat Assembly are due on February 27, March 4 and 8 and the overall sense in the saffron camp is that the caste arithmetic is in its favour in the eastern part of the state more than other regions where polls have taken place.
“We have to push our advantage to the maximum. A fraction of votes can swing several seats in a triangular fight,” said a party leader, adding that it was natural for the party bigwigs to be stationed there ahead of the polls.
Shah, accompanied by Union minister J P Nadda and senior party office-bearers, including General Secretary Bhupendera Yadav, has been camping in the city for several days.
A concern for the party has been visible disgruntlement among a section of leaders in Varanasi, prompting Shah to preside over long meetings to win over dissidents. A poor show in Modi’s constituency will be an “embarrassment” for the BJP.
Modi’s public meetings, which have so far drawn large crowds boosting the party’s morale, are being planned in the region and there is a possibility of the Prime Minister seeking divine blessings at the city’s historic Kashi Vishwanath temple, which can also serve as an occasion to rally around supporters.
A state party leader, however, said a final decision is yet to be taken.
Political watchers say the all three power contenders, the BJP, BSP and the SP-Congress alliance, have had inconsistent run in the four phases of the elections so far, making it all the more imperative for the saffron party to put up a dominant show in the remaining phases to realise its dream of coming to power in the country’s politically most important state.
BJP sources said they are better placed in these phases in terms of demographics.
The Hindutva pitch with an emphasis on alleged Muslim appeasement by the state’s ruling party has been more pronounced in the BJP’s campaign of late with Modi’s ‘kabristan and shamshan’ remarks and Shah seeking to rid the state of ‘KASAB’ (Congress, SP and BSP) and politics of favouritism.
52, 49 and 40 seats will go the polls in the last three phases.