Lucknow: As Amit Shah, the controversial close confidante of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, arrived here Wednesday on his maiden visit to Uttar Pradesh, opinion is divided on his ability to deliver the country's most populous state to the BJP.
While the BJP's old guard is edgy about Shah's entry into UP politics, the new generation leaders feel the newly-appointed general secretary in-charge of the party's state unit could bring in the "much awaited generational change".
The popularity of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been on tehe decline in the state for the last one decade.
Those were heydays of the Ram Janma Bhoomi movement, an old-timer pointed out while admitting that "such a spectacular turnaround is not possible now".
He, however, conceded that Shah could be a "polarising factor" in the state, which is "on the boil due to minority appeasement policies of the Samajwadi Party (SP) government".
"We are very hopeful that Amit Shah's entry into UP will reap rich dividends for us," said BJP's state spokesperson Vijay Pathak. Pointing out that the Narendra Modi team had repeatedly proven its mettle in election management, Pathak added that a road map would soon be chalked out for the party.
"People have become disenchanted with the state as well as the union government. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is still a rejected lot. I feel the time is ripe for us to cash on the anti-incumbency," said Hriday Narayan Dixit, a BJP veteran and former state minister.
The younger generation in the BJP says that Amit Shah and his team will "add value" to the party's fight in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP for long has not had a vote-rich face in the state. The tallest state leader the BJP had was former chief minister Kalyan Singh, who twice left the party in a huff - first after his tiff with former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and later when he was not allowed to handpick candidates for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
The party, which had 182 seats and a 25 percent vote share in the late 1990's, has now been pushed out of contention in Uttar Pradesh.
With the rise of Samajwadi Party and the BSP, the political space has shrunk for national parties in UP.
However, political observer and senior journalist Rajiv Ranjan Jha said: "The BJP is well-placed to take on the Congress nationally in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls."
"The fact remains that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the centre is scam tainted and the SP state government has not much to show. I think the BJP will do well this time," he added.
A party source said that Shah's entry would also herald a "corporate-politics nexus" based on the Gujarat model and electioneering will become more jazzy, tech-savvy and modern.
"The old guard, both at the central and state levels, would perish now. The generational change taking place within the party is coming to UP in the form of Amit Shah," the source said.
A close aide pointed out that Shah knows he is against an "uphill task".
"UP is a dicy and huge state. It has its own political thought. One has to completely understand how things play out here, and that is why Amit bhai has extended his stay in the state by another day," he said.
To understand the politics of UP, Amit Shah would spend two days in the state capital and would hold meetings with all state unit functionaries, eight regional presidents, general secretaries, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders and party workers.
There is also a clamour in the state unit about seeing Narendra Modi contesting from a Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh and party sources say that Varanasi and Lucknow could be the potential seats for the Gujarat satrap.