Looking for a poll issue to revive its fortunes in Uttar Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party has played the Other Backward Classes (OBC) card by fielding the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Uma Bharti, from the Charkhari constituency in Mahoba district.
The Lodh-dominated constituency is located in the Bundelkhand region. Ms. Bharti is from the community and was one of the BJP leaders who had expressed resentment when the former Minister and accused in the National Rural Health Mission scam, Babu Singh Kushwaha, also belonging to the OBC, was inducted into the party. Subsequently, his membership was put on hold.
Mr. Kushwaha had addressed a meeting in Farrukhabad district, where he sought to secure the OBCs support for the BJP by raising the 4.5 per cent Muslim quota issue. He has now been withdrawn from campaigning.
An indication of Ms. Bharti's re-induction was given by BJP president Nitin Gadkari at a press conference here on Tuesday when he said the party would take a decision on the matter.
Ms. Bharti's presence at the BJP's vision document release function here on Monday and the manner in which she acknowledged the cheer from the party workers also led to speculations about her imminent candidature.
According to sources in the party, three constituencies — Babina in Jhansi district, Charkhari in Mahoba and a constituency in Etah — had been shortlisted for her possible candidature.
Incidentally, the former Chief Minister and arguably the tallest OBC leader the BJP has had, Kalyan Singh is the MP from Etah. Mr. Singh is also a Lodh.
The Charkhari seat was won by Anil Kumar Ahirwar of the Bahujan Samaj Party in 2007. This time round, he has been denied ticket. Dhuram Chaudhary will contest for the seat.
With Ms. Bharti also being named the star campaigner, she had stated that she would raise the OBC issue in her campaign.
Already, there are speculations in the BJP circles that she would overshadow other senior leaders like Kalraj Mishra, party candidate from Lucknow East, party's U.P. chief Surya Pratap Shahi and party vice-president Vinay Katiyar.
An indication of what lay ahead within the BJP was given by Mr. Mishra in Deoria on Thursday. Addressing a meeting prior to Mr. Shahi's nomination for the Pathardeva seat, Mr. Mishra said people were fed up with caste politics. They wanted to take a resolve of good governance by voting the BJP to power.
Keywords: Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections