BJP President Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath have big plans to ambush Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in his own constituency: Amethi.
Shah's recent move to checkmate Ahmed Patel's entry to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat was unsuccessful. But Shah has planned to corner the Gandhi family in multiple ways. The thwarted bid to humiliate Ahmed Patel, who is the political secretary to Sonia Gandhi, was just one piece of the strategy.
Before the horrific deaths of over 70 children last week at a Gorakhpur hospital, Shah was working with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on a mission to torpedo Rahul Gandhi. For now, the Chief Minister is focusing on fighting the allegations of negligence and misgovernance that led to the tragedy in Gorakhpur, a constituency he has represented five times in parliament.
Since last week, over 70 children have died at Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur. (PTI)
The plan to leave the Gandhis stranded in their home terrain in the adjoining burroughs of Amethi and Raebareli was an aggressive and proactive approach originally conceived by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then entrusted and tasked, as usual, to his closest aide, Shah. Sources say that Modi and Shah want to deny all political space to the Gandhi family and that includes their traditional family bastion. Unlike the genteel BJP of Atal Bihari Vajpayee which tried to maintain niceties in politics, the Modi and Shah duo do not believe in conceding any quarter.
"To wipe out the Gandhis from UP is Modi and Shah's dream. Humbling Patel was a personal grudge for Shah but the real target was the Congress president and it was an audacious attack on her prestige. The plan to target Rahul Gandhi has been in place ever since Yogi took over and will unfold in phases. There are still two years to go to execute the whole scheme, but what a dream come true it will be for the BJP if we manage to deny them all political legitimacy" said a senior BJP leader privy to the plan who does not want to be identified.
The recent "missing" posters of Gandhi put up in Amethi were faithfully reported by the usual suspect pro-BJP channels. The posters will be followed by a heightened narrative of non-performance by Gandhi. Yogi has assigned a significant stake in "Torpedo RG" to Mahendra Singh, who holds the crucial portfolio of rural development. Singh is expected to and has been travelling to Amethi every fortnight as he chalks out a comprehensive plan using his department for new schemes for Amethi which is still predominantly rural. The BJP has carried out a detailed ward-by-ward informal survey and is earmarking nodal block officials for each ward. Adityanath also meets Singh for meetings specific to Amethi and is using state government machinery to focus on the constituency of Gandhi Junior. Adityanath in turn gives reports to the progress made in Amethi to the fanatically hands-on and detail-driven Shah.
While state machinery commandeered by Adityanath is gamely attending to Amethi, Shah is also working on an equally important part of his plan - identifying and then building a strong local face to run against Gandhi in the 2019 general election in an uncomfortably tight contest. Last time around, Smriti Irani, union minister for Textiles and Information and Broadcasting managed to significantly reduce Gandhi's margin of victory. 2014 was also the first time that the BJP tried to really take on Rahul Gandhi in Amethi and an unwritten covenant between senior leaders of all political parties of giving each other a near walkover in their fiefdoms was breached by Shah and Modi. Irani has been visiting Amethi regularly and makes it a point to target and take on the Gandhi family in every visit.
But sources in the BJP say that it is unlikely to be Irani versus Gandhi again and Shah making overtures to the erstwhile Raja of Amethi, 64-year-old Sanjay Singh, currently a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam ditch the Congress and run against Gandhi. There are still two years to go, but Singh has made no secret of his unhappiness with Gandhi's handling of Amethi. Singh had left the Congress and contested against Sonia Gandhi as a BJP candidate in 1999. He returned to the Congress in 2003, but Shah believes he is ripe for the picking. Whether plan "Torpedo RG" succeeds or not, one thing is clear: that Modi and Shah have forever changed the rules of engagement. Gandhi better watch out or he could be forced to learn from the Ahmed Patel plan to save his own seat.(Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.