Can BJP regain the trust of Brahmins and Paasis around Kanpur?

After unceremoniously dropping Murli Manohar Joshi, who had won from Kanpur in 2014, BJP has fielded another Brahmin, the Khadi minister in Yogi’s council, from Kanpur. But will it work?

Murli Manohar Joshi
Murli Manohar Joshi

Biswajeet Banerjee

Addressing a road show in Kanpur, Congress general secretary and in-charge of UP East, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a weak leader who did not tolerate voices of dissent.

Drawing a comparison between him and Rahul Gandhi, she said, “Look at these two people. One does not have the capability of tolerating any criticism and the other is abused daily. These people (the BJP) abuse him (Rahul Gandhi) every day about his mother, father and grandmother but he listens to them with a smile.”

The words had a magical impact on the people of this industrial town who are witness to the machinations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah in denying ticket to sitting MP and senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. The intolerance, Priyanka spoke about, was reflected in the letter of Joshi written to the people of Kanpur. He wrote: “I was asked by BJP’s organisational secretary Ram Lal that I should not contest election this time - neither from Kanpur nor from any other constituency.”

The letter proves clearly that the party took the decision without taking Joshi into confidence. This has angered people, particularly Brahmins, of the region. “Joshi is one of the senior most leaders of the party. Modi and Shah should have the courtesy to inform him (Joshi) before replacing him with another,” Kamleshwar Chaturvedi, joint secretary of Uttar Pradesh Brahmin Mahasangh, said.

He said the BJP denied ticket to Joshi citing his age but gave ticket to an equally old Satyadev Pachauri who is not half as active as Joshi. “We could have understood the BJP’s decision, had a young Brahmin face been given the ticket in place of Joshi. Pachauri is no match for Joshi. Tell me one reason why Brahmins should vote for the BJP in this election,” an agitated Chaturvedi said. His voice quivered when he said that BJP was set to lose Kanpur this time.

Unceremonious removal of Murli Manohar Joshi is having a ripple effect 

Pachauri, incidentally, is the Khadi and Gramodyog and MSME minister in Yogi Adityanath cabinet in UP.

Probably, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was able to read the undercurrent in Kanpur and therefore talked about the intolerance of Prime Minister Modi. Her words seem to have turned the scale in favour of Prakash Jaiswal, an old warrior who had won elections from Kanpur many a time. In 2014, riding the Modi wave, Joshi, whose seat was shifted from Varanasi to Kanpur, won by a comfortable margin.

“This time all eyes will be on Kanpur because a decision to deny ticket to a veteran leader like Joshi needs justification. If BJP loses Kanpur, there will be a big question mark on Shah’s leadership capability. If the party wanted to drop Joshi, it should have given the ticket to a young leader like Satish Mahana. Fearing a Brahmin backlash that would have impacted results of not only Kanpur but of neighbouring Kanpur Dehat, the party opted for an elder like Pachauri. The decision is likely to backfire,” SK Pandey of PPN College, Kanpur, said.

Kanpur will go to polls in the fourth phase on April 29 along with eleven other constituencies like Shahjahanpur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Hardoi, Mishrikh, Unnao, Farrukhabad, Etawah, Kannauj, Akbarpur, Jalaun, Jhansi and Hamirpur. Barring Kannauj, the BJP had won all the seats in 2014 elections.

What happened in Kanpur was reflected in neighbouring Shahjahanpur where Union Minister Krishna Raj was denied ticket. Incidentally, it is Raj who was responsible for effective implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Yojana under which ₹6000 is given to small and marginal farmers across the country. She has been replaced by Arun Sagar.

The way she has been replaced with an unknown face has angered Dalit party workers within the BJP. Krishna Raj has stopped electioneering. Messages were sent to her to start campaigning but she has refused the party’s request and has gone to New Delhi on the pretext of government work.

The constituency has over 90,000 Paasi votes who had voted en bloc for the BJP in 2014. This time, Congress candidate Brahma Swaroop Sagar has emerged as Paasi community’s first choice. BSP’s Amar Chand Jauhar is representing the gathbandhan here.

The fourth phase will also witness fierce contest in Bundelkhand with elections in Jalaun, Jhansi and Hamirpur slated for April 29. Conviction of local BJP MLA Ashok Chandel in Hamirpur in a murder case is an issue in this area. “The court’s decision has brought bad publicity to the BJP. The BJP will lose the election because of Chandel,” Awadh Bihari Rajpur, a resident of Mehra, said.

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