All is not well with the BJP in U.P.

NEW DELHI JULY 26. Contrary to what the Bharatiya Janata Party's central leadership has been asserting, all is not well with the party's Uttar Pradesh unit, and many party leaders suspect that the BJP's popularity chart in the State can only show a downslide as long as the party is seen to be sharing the spoils of power in the Mayawati-led BJP-Bahujan Samaj Party coalition Government.

Many party MPs from the State are restive, and some leaders feel (and openly state) that although Uttar Pradesh has a coalition Government, the BJP's role in that partnership was virtually restricted to some of its members getting Ministerial berths.

In fact, some senior party leaders from the State met the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, on Thursday and it is reported that a "list'' of names was cleared for inclusion as Ministers in the Mayawati Government.

On Wednesday, BJP MPs from the State met over dinner — invited by Rajya Sabha MP, Rajnath Singh `Surya', in-charge of Uttar Pradesh MPs of the BJP — and although nothing substantial was discussed, reports suggest that some of them did air their views. The Prime Minister did not attend it although Lucknow is his constituency. More significant, earlier in the day, some senior BJP leaders from Uttar Pradesh, including the general secretary in-charge, Rajnath Singh, and the State president, Vinay Katiyar, met at the residence of the State `prabhari', Kalraj Mishra.

It is almost a foregone conclusion that on July 28 when the party's Uttar Pradesh State legislature wing meets to elect a new leader — Rajnath Singh has resigned from the post — the new incumbent will be Lalji Tandon, a senior leader and Cabinet Minister in the Mayawati Government. The State national council will also meet that day and is expected to ratify the appointment of Mr. Katiyar as State unit president.

Despite the recent changes in the party set-up, there are influential leaders from the State who feel that the BJP's support base cannot expand as long as the party shares power in the Mayawati-led Government. The assessment is that the law and order situation has begun to go downhill even as corruption levels are going upwards, and the political message in many decisions taken by the Chief Minister is a positive one for her Jatav supporters and negative for the BJP's support base among Brahmins, Thakurs and some of the non-Yadav backward castes.

Take the reservation policy of the former Chief Minister and now BJP general secretary, Rajnath Singh. Ms. Mayawati made it quite plain that Om Prakash Singh, a backward caste leader in the BJP, had himself asked her not to implement Mr. Singh's reservation policy (which she could not have for the matter is in court). "Such statements from her have exposed us all,'' a party leader from the State said. There is also the view that there is no certainty at all about the party having an electoral seat-sharing arrangement with the BSP for the Assembly elections in nine States next year or the 2004 Lok Sabha election. A party leader disclosed that there was no substantial agreement on this (contrary to what the BJP's central leadership has been claiming). "Our joining the BSP-led coalition Government in Uttar Pradesh was unconditional'', a leader said, pointing out that there was no sub-text about alliances in the forthcoming polls. "It is strange, but true, the BJP did not extract any concession from Ms. Mayawati, except support in Parliament, in exchange for helping to install her as Chief Minister,'' was one comment. "The better course would have been to support her from outside.''

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