Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not rest on his laurels; nor does he allow political setbacks to cramp his style.
Putting the Bengal embarrassment aside, he has plunged into consultations with Amit Shah, trusted party lieutenants and the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh to dispel the negative public perception over the government’s ham-handed handling of the Covid situation, especially with the UP polls in mind.
Sources said that the meeting that Modi had in the national Capital on Sunday was aimed at assessing the impact of the COVID 19 crisis on the image of the party and its fallout on state Assembly polls next year.
Strangely, the Akhil Bhartiya Prachar Pramukh of the RSS, Mr Sunil Ambekar, denied the buzz that Modi met BJP National President J.P. Nadda and Uttar Pradesh BJP General Secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal and RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale. “There was no such meeting,” Ambekar clarified.
Political analysts say that the BJP has realized that it must set its house in order. COVID mismanagement across India and the high number of Corona deaths and infections in Uttar Pradesh in the second wave of the pandemic have led to doubts about Modi’s done to death Gujarat model of development. The disenchantment and anger was reflected in the outcome of the recent UP Gram Panchayat elections. This has added to the worries of the BJP as Panchayat elections are considered a semi- final before the Assembly polls. The UP Assembly has 403 seats.
The BJP performance in the UP gram Panchayat elections was a huge setback for the saffron party which lost in each of the regions and also lost in Hindutva bastions, including Ayodhya, Gorakhpur, Mathura, Prayagraj and in Prime Minister’s constituency in Varanasi. It was difficult for the BJP to digest this as it has started construction of Ram Temple and has also released huge funds for overall development of Ayodhya and Varanasi.
In recent weeks, widely disseminated images of suspected COVID bodies floating on the Ganges and many bodies buried in the sand on the river bank, have presented undeniable evidence of poor handling of the pandemic in the BJP ruled State.
Modi does not want his severely bruised and battered image to impact the political fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party in India’s most populous State. BJP’s defeat in West Bengal has robbed Prime Minister Narendra Modi of his sleep and he clearly cannot afford to go wrong on the political arithmetic in Uttar Pradesh which goes to polls in 2022.
Uttar Pradesh sends the largest number of law makers to Parliament and the BJP must retain its hold on the State to get a good chance to get a third term at the Centre.
Under criticism from various quarters, the BJP President last week wrote to Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states and asked them to launch initiatives to assist those who have suffered due to the pandemic. While the party is tackling criticism from the public and the opposition, it has also had to face criticism from its own cadres. Early this month, Union Labour minister Santosh Gangwar complained to the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath about the situation in his Bareilly constituency, saying officials don't take calls and government health centres send back patients for 'referrals' from the district hospital. He also complained about the “big shortage” of empty oxygen cylinders and the high prices of medical equipment in Bareilly.
Likewise, BJP’s legislator in Sitapur also expressed resentment over Covid-19 management in the state, saying he feared a sedition charge for speaking up. “What standing do MLAs have? If we speak too much, treason and sedition charges will be slapped on us as well,” Rakesh Rathore told reporters when asked about ICU facilities in Sitapur.