BJP chief deploys ‘half the govt’ in forthcoming state polls

BJP chief deploys ‘half the govt’ in forthcoming state polls

New Delhi, August 24

BJP chief Amit Shah on Thursday appointed eight top-ranking ministers looking after more than 15 key departments in the Narendra Modi government as in-charges of three states —Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, due for elections this year and early next year.

While senior leader and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who has also held the responsibility in the past, has been given the charge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah’s home state Gujarat, HRD Minister Prakash Javedakar and Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot will take care of the BJP’s fortunes in Congress-ruled Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, respectively.

Notably, in Gujarat Jaitley will be assisted by an array of senior central ministers. They include Narendra Singh Tomar, Nirmala Sitharaman, Jitendra Singh and PP Choudhary.

While the move is indicative of the importance Gujarat holds for BJP, the fact that in addition to the PM and Shah (who will obviously be actively campaigning in their state) five top ministers have been positioned to oversee Gujarat polls perhaps also shows that “all may not be well” for the saffron party in the state.

Even as the BJP juggernaut rolls on with Shah in the driving seat, events in Karnataka and Gujarat show the party may not be as comfortable position as he would like it to be.

For example Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s win in the Rajya Sabha polls, despite the best efforts by Shah, proved what appears on the surface could be different from the realities on the ground.

Besides, ever since Modi moved to the Centre, Gujarat has been a hot spot of major anti-BJP agitations, including the Patidar protests led by Hardik Patel and the Dalit revolt after the Una flogging episode.

In Gujarat, the BJP is not just facing an anti-incumbency of 17 years but also a built-up over Prime Minister’s economic moves like demonetisation and switchover to the GST.

As far as Karnataka is concerned, where Union minister Piyush Goyal will assist Javadekar in building the BJP campaign in the Congress-ruled state, the grand old party appears to be on a roll after the launch of ‘Indira Canteen’ — a new programme of the Siddaramaiah government to provide food at subsidised rates.

In Himachal Pradesh, a relatively smaller state which appears to be “quite under control”, Gehlot will be relying upon State leaders for help, say BJP leaders.

Seven key states — Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh (November-December), Meghalaya (February) Karnataka (April-May next year), Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan (September-October 2018) — will go to polls before the 2019 General Elections.