Ahmedabad: After spending three months in the electorally high-pitched Uttar Pradesh as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s in-charge for the Lok Sabha election, Gordhan Zadaphia is back home in Ahmedabad.
He is confident the saffron party would repeat its 2014 feat when it had won 71 of the 80 parliamentary seats in the northern state.
When BJP national president announced that Zadaphia would be lead the party in UP for the LS election, political pundits were taken by surprise.
News18 talked to the senior BJP leader on a range of subjects, including the Lok Sabha election, Congress general secretary in charge of UP east Priyanka Gandhi, the grand alliance of Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Zadaphia, who was the minister of state for home under the then chief minister Narendra Modi during the 2002 riots, is known for his oratory and his exemplary organisational skills.
He was assigned to look after the Awadh area of Uttar Pradesh ahead of the general election. Besides strategising for the 16 parliamentary seats that falls in the Awadh area, he campaigned in another 28 constituencies of the state to break ‘the caste combination’ of the SP-BSP ‘Mahagathbandhan’.
Zadaphia told News18 that the ground reality was contrary to the hype that was created around the grand alliance in the state.
“A hype was created around the Mahagathbadhan and it was a propaganda whose sole base was caste and nothing else. It was needed to be diluted and we did it with the Modi government’s beneficiary schemes and work done by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Yogi brought law and order in the state and it was evident during the Lok Sabha election where there was not a single incident of violence. People have seen it. I have travelled to the remotest parts of the state where I have come across many villages where they have received electricity for the first time after Independence. People in UP are getting 18-hour electricity and in the next two-years, the government plans to provide round-the-clock electricity and voters have witnessed the change,” Zadaphia told News18.
“The Yogi government provided Rs 53,000 crore to sugarcane farmers and the amount was deposited directly into their bank accounts. As many as 19 sugarcane units (mills) have been revived, three new sugarcane co-operatives are being opened and 22 new ones are being started in the state. The government bought 54 lakh metric tonnes of rice by giving Rs 1,750 per quintal as minimum support price (MSP). I have been the BJP Kishan Morcha’s general secretary and I know farmers’ issues well. We have likened inflation with MSP calculation. All these beneficiary schemes of the BJP government have created a pro-incumbency wave in the country,” the BJP leader said.
The 65-year-old BJP leader said that in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, it was about expectation from Modi and in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it is about the confidence of voters in the PM who can protect the country and deliver his promises.
When asked if Priyanka Gandhi’s campaign in UP posed any challenge to the saffron party, Zadaphia said the Congress was nowhere in picture in the state.
“This was not the first time that she had campaigned in UP. But this time, it was a fight between the BJP and mahagathbandhan. Priyanka Gandhi lowered her dignity by campaigning against her own family member — Maneka Gandhi (the BJP candidate from Sultanpur). Manekaji did not campaign against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in Rae Bareli and Amethi, respectively. People saw it and rejected her,” he said.
A resident of Gariyadhar town in Bhavnagar district in the Saurashtra region, Zadaphia belongs to the influential Leuva Patel community.
Another prominent face from Gujarat who campaigned nationally, but for the Congress was Patidar leader Hardik Patel. Patel had joined the Congress just before the Lok Sabha election.
“Patel did not campaign in UP. His quota stir was over after the Modi government brought in a law giving 10% reservation for economically poor people of all castes in the country,” he said.
Analysts in Gujarat are closely watching Zadaphia's meteoric rise into the saffron party after he rejoined the BJP ahead of 2014 general election.
A close ally of former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, Zadaphia had refused a ministerial berth offered by Modi in 2004 and had floated his own outfit called Maha Gujarat Janta Party (MJP) in 2008.
However, it was merged with the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) floated by former chief minister Keshubhai Patel before the 2012 Gujarat assembly election. The GPP had won two seats in the state. It soon merged with the BJP.
Now, analysts are keenly watching how many parliamentary seats the BJP would win in UP as it would reveal how much Zadaphia and his team could manage to hold the fort for the saffron camp in the country’s politically crucial state.
When asked if he planned to return to electoral politics anytime soon, Zadaphia told News18, “I am just a foot soldier of the party and the party will take a call on that.”