Lucknow: Parliamentarian Varun Gandhi is a notable omission in the BJP’s list of 40 star campaigners for the first two phases of the Uttar Pradesh elections. Also not in the list, which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah, are veteran leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
Varun Gandhi has had a strained relationship with the party leadership, which the 36-year-old lawmaker reportedly believes has not backed him after allegations last year that he had been honey-trapped and blackmailed into leaking crucial information. Mr Gandhi, the BJP lawmaker from Sultanpur in UP, has not been campaigning in the state, where elections will be held in seven phases starting February 11.
But another lawmaker seen as rebellious recently, Yogi Adityanath, is on the list as are controversial leaders Sanjeev Baliyan and Hukum Singh, both of who have cases against them for allegedly making inflammatory speeches.
Varun Gandhi’s mother and union minister Maneka Gandhi has made the cut, but LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who is one of the BJP’s seniormost leaders from UP, have not, which has drawn swift comment from rival parties. The Samajwadi Party’s Gaurav Bhatia called it the BJP’s internal matter, but observed, “Yogi Adityanath’s name is in the list…Other people who actually stabilised the party have not been included.”
Swami Prasad Maurya, who left BSP six months ago to join the BJP and is said to be unhappy with the number of tickets that the party has allotted to him and his supporters, has also been included in the party’s list of key campaigners. A disgruntled Mr Maurya has reportedly been assessing another move, this time to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. The former BSP leader is said to have significant support among several sections of UP’s other backward castes or OBCs.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari will campaign, as will Textile Minister Smriti Irani, who took on Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi in his constituency Amethi in the national elections of 2014.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who is busy campaigning in his home state Goa, has not been enlisted for the UP campaign.