Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah surprised everyone in the party by appointing fellow Gujarat politician, Goardhan Zadafia, as the next election in-charge of the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh. Shah himself handled that job for Narendra Modi, then Gujarat chief minister, during the latter’s prime ministerial bid in 2014.
“Even he did not know that this job was coming to him,” a close aide to the former Gujarat minister said on condition of anonymity.
The new job handed to Zadafia, 64, reflects the trust that Prime Minister Modi and Shah have in the politician, a Leuva Patidar from Saurashtra who worked behind the scenes in the last year’s assembly elections in Gujarat. The BJP found itself in a difficult situation in Gujarat after an emotive campaign by the Patidar community for government job and university seat quotas, but managed to retain the state with a reduced majority.
“With Sunil Bansal, another Shah confidant with RSS roots, as the organisational secretary of the party in Uttar Pradesh and Zadafia as the poll in-charge; it is going to be a closely knit team,” said the general secretary, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. RSS is short for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological mentor of the BJP.
Modi had got Shah appointed as the BJP’s commander in Uttar Pradesh before the 2014 elections, and described him as the ‘man of the match’ for winning 73 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). After Shah became BJP’s president in July 2014, old RSS hand Om Prakash Mathur was sent to Uttar Pradesh in place of Shah.
Bansal, who was in Rajasthan, was moved to Uttar Pradesh as Sangathan Mantri, a job reserved for RSS pointsmen in the BJP. “But, Mathur and Bansal could not get along,” a senior BJP functionary said.
With the 2019 battle just a few months away and a new coalition of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party in the making, the Sangh and the BJP felt the need for better coordination in India’s most populous state, party insiders said. Uttar Pradesh fills 80 seats in the Lok Sabha, more than any other state.
“Zadafia’s relationship with the RSS and its outfits, and his experience of working in the BJP will be an advantage,” said the second functionary cited in the story.
Who is Zadafia?
An old hand of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Zadafia was Gujarat’s junior home minister during the riots of 2002.
Closely associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Zadafia refused to take the oath of office as a minister in the Gujarat government in 2005, when Modi expanded his cabinet for the first time after winning the 2002 election.
Zadafia was a known bête noire of Modi in Gujarat, and a confidant of Keshubhai Patel, whom Modi replaced as chief minister in October 2001.
Zadafia walked out of the BJP ahead of the 2007 assembly election, and his Mahagujarat Janta Party (MJP) polled 2.3% of the votes in the 2009 parliamentary election. He could not win, but spoiled BJP’s chances in at least three seats.
Zadafia’s MJP merged with Keshubhai’s Gujarat Parivartan Party in August 2012, but they put up a poor show in the 2012 assembly polls – winning just two out of 167 seats. The GPP merged with the BJP ahead of the 2014 polls. Zadafia had returned home.
First Published: Dec 28, 2018 00:13 IST