With the campaign for the Lok Sabha polls now entering the home stretch, BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has made it clear that he would not invoke the Ram Mandir plank and instead rely solely on his personal appeal to win the elections.
Interestingly, the Gujarat strongman’s renewed focus has resulted in the mandir issue taking a backseat at public meetings addressed by him, which was ample evidence that the days of the ardent votaries of hardline Hindutva were over in the main Opposition party. But what has irked the UP BJP leaders the most is the move to foist Modi acolyte, Amit Shah as the party in-charge for the state. And Shah’s appointment has meant that the top party leaders from the state have to bow before him. During the BJP’s halcyon days of yore, Kalyan Singh, Vinay Katiyar, Kalraj Mishra, Baleshwar Tyagi, Hridaya Narain Dixit, Shyamdev Singh and several others had been the leading lights of the party’s mandir movement and they enjoyed immense popularity among the state’s Hindus.
Besides being CM, Kalyan was dubbed ‘Hindu Hridaya Samrat’(icon of Hindu hearts) by the Sangh Parivar and it was during his tenure that the disputed structure at Babri Masjid was demolished by the ‘kar sevaks’ . A powerful OBC leader, the former Chief Minister had sacrificed his political career for the sake of the party’s ideology and was later convicted by the Supreme Court. It was due to Kalyan’s hardwork that the OBCs joined the BJP in large numbers and he had succeeded in dispelling the prevailing notion of the BJP being a Brahmin-Bania party. Ironically, he is now struggling for an identity at Modi’s public meetings and rallies, where he had been reduced to the status of a cheerleader.
Similarly Katiyar, popularly called ‘Bajrangi’ since he was the founder president of the Bajrang Dal, which played a crucial role in galvanising the Hindu youth for the mandir campaign, has been forced to remain a mute spectator by the BJP top brass. A staunch Kalyan loyalist, Katyar now confines himself to the party office.
And fiery sadhvi and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti, who came into the spotlight in the wake of the Ayodhya campaign, is another of the former BJP leading lights struggling to retain her place among the party’s core leadership. Previously known for her highly articulate and vocal campaign on the mandir issue, she is rarely heard these days, besides being a conspicuous absence at Modi’s road shows.
Another BJP face struggling to keep himself in the reckoning is former UP BJP chief Kalraj Mishra. The one-time political heavyweight is now trying to secure a safe seat for the LS polls. And Varun Gandhi-- the young Hindutva face, who was successful in getting a foothold in UP as the BJP’s youth voice from the state, has been shunted to West Bengal as the BJP in-charge.