Will Yogi Adityanath lead BJP in UP polls? Saffron party, RSS conduct hectic parleys

LUCKNOW: BJP’s national general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh and Uttar Pradesh in-charge Radha Mohan Singh on Monday held meetings with the top state leaders and RSS office-bearers here to review the party’s programmes in the politically crucial state where assembly polls are due next year.

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, deputy chief ministers Dinesh Sharma and Keshav Prasad Maurya, and senior RSS official bearers Dattatreya Hosabole and Krishna Gopal were present at a meeting held at the CM’s residence by the central leaders who arrived on a two-day visit.

“No political discussions took place in the meeting. It was more on the organisation, especially the programmes, training and ‘pravaas’ (taking stock of organisational matters),” a senior leader, who was privy to the consultations, said.

He also said that no discussions were held on the election of zila panchayat chairpersons or the 2022 assembly elections.

This is the second visit by the central leaders this month as the party sets in motion preparations for the crucial assembly polls next year in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During their earlier visit from May 31 to June 2, Radha Mohan Singh had shot down speculation of a leadership change in the state and had defended the Yogi Adityanath government’s handling of the COVID-19 situation.

On Sunday, Uttar Pradesh minister Swami Prasad Maurya said the state’s next chief minister will be decided by the BJP’s central leadership after the assembly polls, prompting the Samajwadi Party to suggest that the ruling party is divided on the leadership issue.

Earlier in the day, the two central leaders met UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh and state general secretary Sunil Bansal and discussed various campaigns of the party.

The two leaders later headed for the office of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Niralanagar locality in the state capital.

Party sources said that at the RSS office, Santhosh and other party leaders met Sangh office bearers, including ‘Kshetra Pracharak’ Anil.

They are understood to have held discussions on 2022 UP Assembly elections and the allegations of corruption in the purchase of land in Ayodhya by the Ram temple trust, the sources said.

However, when asked about the meeting, Swatantra Dev Singh said that it was a courtesy call and no particular issue was discussed.

A UP BJP spokesperson said that Santhosh will hold meetings with party office bearers and review COVID-19-related campaigns and other ”seva” works.

He will also give his guidance for upcoming party campaigns and programmes.

A party office-bearer said that Santhosh has come for the “monthly review” of the various ongoing programmes of the party.

“There are 11 programmes, and he has come to see how they are being implemented by the UP unit of the BJP,” he said.

Opposition parties have been attacking the Yogi Adityanath government over the situation during the second COVID-19 wave and plan to raise it as a major election issue.

In recent days, they have trained guns at the BJP over allegations of corruption in the purchase of land in Ayodhya by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, which has dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

The BJP leaders have hit back at the opposition, claiming it was an attempt to derail the Ram Temple construction by levelling false allegations.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh minister Swami Prasad Maurya has said the state’s next chief minister will be decided by the BJP’s central leadership after the assembly polls, prompting the Samajwadi Party to suggest that the ruling party is divided on the leadership issue.

The labour minister made the remark Sunday at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state headquarter here while replying to a question from reporters. The chief minister will be finalised by the central leadership after the Assembly elections,” Maurya said.

The remark appeared to go against the statements made earlier by other party leaders who suggested earlier that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will be the party’s CM face again in the assembly elections early next year.

Last week in Etah, BJP’s state unit president Swatantra Dev Singh said the polls will be contested under Adityanath’s leadership.

“Corruption and hooliganism have ended and development is taking place. We will fight the 2022 elections under the hardworking and honest chief minister Yogi Adityanath,” Singh had told reporters.

But Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya had earlier said in Bareilly that the party’s national leadership will decide under whom the upcoming elections will be fought.

When asked if there was any confusion in the party over this, BJP spokesperson Harishchandra Srivastava played down the issue.

“Swatantra Dev is the state unit president and what he has said is important. What Keshav Prasad Maurya and Swami Prasad Maurya have said is on the basis of the party’s norms and traditions,” he said.

“Formally, the announcement of the chief minister’s name is made by the parliamentary board, and so Keshav Prasad Maurya and Swami Prasad Maurya would have said this,” Srivastava added.

In a statement, however, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav termed the situation “laughable”.

“Voices of dissent against UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have started to emerge from within the party.

Two responsible ministers have said that after the elections, the centre (central leadership) will decide who will be the chief minister.

This situation in the state politics is laughable,” he said.

The opposition leader’s statement comes on a day when BJPs national general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh and UP in-charge Radha Mohan Singh are on a visit to the state, meeting leaders from the party and the RSS.

This is the second visit to Lucknow by the two central BJP leaders this month as the party gears up for the assembly elections.

During their last visit, they had shot down speculation that change in leadership in the state was imminent.