Will the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, ride on the name of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who died on Thursday after a prolonged illness aged 93?
Vajpayee death has lead to a widespread appreciation of the time when he ruled as the “moderate” face of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The indication that the party may choose to ride on his shoulders comes from a few decisions taken by the government in Uttar Pradesh.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that “special works” would be initiated in places that were linked to the three-time Prime Minister’s life span. Developmental projects and public welfare schemes are likely to be announced by the state government soon for Vajpayee’s native village Bateshwar, the DAV college in Kanpur where he studied, his ‘karmabhoomi’ Lucknow which sent him to the Lok Sabha for five terms and Balrampur, from where he was elected a Lok Sabha MP for the first time.
“Vajpayee-ji was etched in ‘kan-kan’(every speck) of the state”, and it would only be befitting for the party, which he nurtured from nowhere to become the biggest political entity in the world, to “do a lot of activity in his memory,” says State general secretary, Govind Narayan Shukla.
It was not without reason that within minutes of his mortal remains being consigned to the flames at the Smriti Sthal in New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) chief minister’s Office released the list of rivers and districts where the ashes of the former Prime Minister would be immersed. There is also a likelihood that Vajpayee’s ashes would be taken around towns and major cities of the state before the final rituals are conducted.
“We will do all that’s within our rights to ensure that Atalji’s good work and development is revived in public memory,” says a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) functionary who did not want to be named.
Sources say that dates were being worked out to ensure that the roll out of events, memorials and projects was timed keeping in mind the forthcoming general elections.
Party strategists say that other than the ‘asthi-kalash yatras’ (the urn carrying processions) in all the 80 Lok Sabha seats and 350 assembly constituencies of the state, all publicity literature of both the government and the ruling party would have detailed mention of the various works done by the Vajpayee government.
This would include works like the Golden Quadrilateral road project, the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojna, the Pokhran blasts and the many steps taken for welfare of farmers and army personnel.
The party organisation is also learnt to be readying a road map of cultural activities keeping at the centre of its strategy that Vajpayee was a renowned poet. ‘Kavi Sammelans’, symposiums and musical evenings are also being discussed to entertain voters and keep the former prime minister’s memory alive.
Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be at the epicenter of campaigning in 2019, as he seeks a second term, memories of Atal Bihari Vajpayee -- statesman, poet and prime minister -- is likely to be used as an electioneering plank to match, if not better, its 2014 score of 71 out of 80 parliamentary seats from the state.