The BJP held a four-hour meeting in Delhi today to discuss the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh due next year. The key question at the meet, sources said, was likely to be the possible fallout of last week’s events in Lakhimpur Kheri, where four farmers were run over on October 3 — allegedly by Ashish Mishra, the son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra.
Junior home minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, Ajay Mishra has not resigned despite the nationwide outrage and opposition demands.
Sources said there is no possibility of resignation for now. At a meeting with his boss, Union Home Minister Amit Shah last week, Mr Mishra said he or his son were not at the spot. Sources indicated that fresh overview could be taken on basis of the findings of the investigation if needed.
The party, though, still needs to think ahead and sources said the knotty question of his resignation could be discussed at the meeting, which was attended by party secretary BL Santosh, UP in-charge Radha Mohan Singh, election in-charge Dharmendra Pradhan, UP BJP President Swatantra Dev, state BJP’s organizational secretary Sunil Bansal and party chief JP Nadda.
The deaths, and the state police’s tardy response on the arrest of Ashish Mishra, have infuriated farmers.
For the party, the choice is between alienating farmers or the Brahmins, who comprise 11 per cent of the state’s population and are seen as upset with the BJP.
Mr Mishra belongs to the Brahmin community, who though numerically small, are of crucial political importance given the given the huge role of caste in elections in the state, seen as a gateway to Delhi.
The BJP’s core constituency in the state when the Dalit votebank gained ascendancy, Brahmins have become deeply resentful with the selection of Yogi Adityanath — a Rajput — for the top post.
Backing the Chief Minister for a second term, the BJP, over the last months, has been trying hard to gain back the favour of the community.
In June, the party acquired Congress’s Jitin Prasda regain the favour of its core constituency.
It also tried a similar move in 2016 — inducting another Brahmin face from the Congress, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, daughter of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna.
But the attempt failed with Ms Bahuguna-Joshi having no mass following in the state. Jitin Prasada suffers from a similar handicap.
In comparison, Ajay Mishra has considerable clout in the Terai area and he has the image of a muscleman.