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After RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale’s meetings, national party leaders to head to UP

After RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosable held several meetings with Sangh Parivar members last week during his three-day tour of Lucknow, national BJP leaders such as national organisation secretary BL Santhosh and UP in-charge Radha Mohan Singh are set to visit the state. Many high-level meetings are slated wherein the BJP and RSS will finalise a strategy to build support for the Yogi Adityanath government in the assembly polls due in eight months, those in know of the matter told ET.

Santhosh and Singh are expected to hold meetings with UP general secretary Sunil Bansal and other party leaders on Monday. This comes even as the UP government embarks on a vaccination drive for those over 18 years in 75 districts and ramps up its Covid-19 management from Tuesday.

A senior functionary told ET that the focus of these meetings will be to firm up the UP unit’s ‘seva hi sanghathan’ programmes that will go on for the next two months, most of which will be centred on vaccination. He said the party will devise two-three campaigns around vaccination drives of the state government that will see BJP and RSS workers play a crucial role in getting people, particularly among the poorer sections of society registered.

“Apart from ensuring that the party is visible, planning outreach efforts with present and former allies, making the organisation stronger and finalising members for local civic bodies are likely to be discussed. The visits by these leaders will set the ground for poll preparations,” a party functionary said.

Hosabale, whose centre has been Lucknow even before he was made general secretary, is learnt to have met key functionaries of all bodies of the Sangh Parivar last week. As RSS Number 2, his centre will now be in Nagpur, the RSS headquarters.

“He met many people and took stock of the working of the organisation, and his focus was only on Covid-19 related seva. He wanted us to reach out to families that have lost their kin, speak to crematorium workers, oversee last rites related issues, help children with online classes and take people to vaccination centres. A specific advice has been to avoid any blame game right now,” a swayamsevak in Lucknow said, talking about their own party workers’ complaints against the administration’s handling of Covid-19.

A senior RSS leader said the Sangh is happy with Adityanath’s constant tours of the districts, and reaching out to gram pradhans, panchayat members and addressing the rural spread of Covid, but are aware that “there is there is large-scale suffering that needs to be mitigated”.

BJP spokesperson Chandramohan told ET that the party’s focus is only seva and strengthening the organisation. Sangh members have been asked to help in the government’s vaccination drive from Monday and Tuesday in 75 districts. Special instructions were given to renovate government health centres. Over the next three days, the BJP plans functions at 20,000 points across UP where they will organise blood donation camps. Every functionary was asked to visit one village at least on Sunday, and organise Mann Ki Baat listening sessions at its shakti kendras.

Winning UP is important for the BJP and RSS, particularly after its defeat in Bengal. BJP came to power in UP with a landslide victory in 2017.

While the opposition, particularly the Samajwadi Party and RLD have already announced an understanding and are cornering the government on its Covid-19 management, BJP functionaries said there are many organisational changes being discussed within the party hierarchy to reassure people of the efficiency of the administration and to expand the organisation, particularly to reach out to non Yadav, non Jatav and upper caste voters who supported the party in 2017 and 2019.

Former head of Lucknow University’s political science department, SK Dwivedi, told ET that the fact that Adityanath has many measures to his credit, mainly in the area of law and order in the last four years, that can mobilise Hindu voters.

“With his love-jihad laws or Ram temple, the Hindu voters have not had much complaints till Covid-19, and now, both the BJP and RSS are aware of the challenges. Their visibility and reassuring people that they are doing everything possible will increase their chances.”

Raghavendra Pratap Singh, former head, political science at Banaras Hindu University, said BJP’s setback in key areas of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur in the panchayat elections shows that it will face a tough challenge from the opposition that is asking questions on Covid-19.

“The government has to handle Covid-19 related crises such as loss of jobs, price rise, hike in fuel price, among others. People are asking many questions from the state government.”

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