Lucknow: Is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bending 'backwards', literally, in Uttar Pradesh to realize its national political ambitions?
They are tailoring an "all inclusive" major action plan to pitchfork its backward caste leaders as they undertake a major campaign in the country's most populous state.
Insiders say that with UP accounting for 80 Lok Sabha seats, party leaders are leaving nothing to chance for the parliamentary polls less than two years away.
"We are not just hinging on middle class anger against corruption and price rise but are also working on a serious vote bank plan that includes wooing the backward class in Uttar Pradesh," party leaders said.
So, while the BJP has almost stitched up a deal with its former satrap Kalyan Singh, a Lodh, to return to its fold, it will hold six 'backward conventions' across the state.
The brain behind the first of its kind convention are leaders like Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti and Om Prakash Singh and party's national president Nitin Gadkari.
"We have the blessings of the national leadership and we are sure that the backward castes, like in the 1990s, would be rallying behind the BJP this time," said another senior leader.
With Kalyan Singh's return, the party aims at mobilizing the support of the Lodh community, which holds sway in over seven districts of central Uttar Pradesh.
The party wants the other backward classes (OBCs) to close ranks with it as they feel they are sandwiched between a Dalit champion in Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati and a Yadav-Muslim obsessed Samajwadi Party.
"Many in the OBCs are finding themselves on the fringes of political discourse. We are out to tap them," a BJP strategist, who did not wish to be identified, told IANS.
The party has assigned the task of wooing OBCs to its senior leaders including Uma Bharti, Hukum Singh, Nepal Singh, Swatantra Dev Singh and Prem Lata Katiyar.
The party is also promoting OBC leaders by giving them posts in the party hierarchy.
Grass-hoppers from other parties like Ram Narayan Sahu, who after decades of being with SP switched over to the BJP, are being given plum posts in the party.
These conventions were kickstarted by the first backward conference in Amroha Nov 4 and will be followed by a string of them in Agra, Gorakhpur, Mirzapur and Jhansi.
BJP's Sushil Shakya told IANS that these conventions were aimed at telling the OBCs that the BJP was with them thick and thin.
Party leaders, however, admit that while in the past too the party leadership had dabbled with the backwards, the moves had fallen flat as it lacked a viable OBC face.
"We need to have a pan-UP leadership. Hopefully, with the return of Kalyan Singh, the party would get a boost," said a leader.