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Bengal-focused BJP dallies on UP

New Delhi, June 16: The BJP has been slow in reacting to murders of its officials in Uttar Pradesh at a time it has sent two central teams to Bengal to investigate violence against supporters.

Three BJP office-bearers have been killed in the heartland state in the past nine days and an MP and the mother of a local leader come under attack, but the party has yet to get into agitation mode.

After local BJP leader Vijay Pandit was gunned down at Dadri in western Uttar Pradesh on June 7, his wife pointed a finger at the area’s Samajwadi Party strongman, Narendra Singh Bhatti.

On June 10, Om Veer Singh, a co-convener of the party’s panchayati raj cell in Muzaffarnagar, was shot dead. The body of Rakesh Kumar Rastogi, vice-president of a block in Uttarakhand, was found in Bareilly last weekend.

On June 14, Fatehpur MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti was waylaid in her constituency, allegedly by Samajwadi workers who she claimed were out to kill her. On June 15, the mother of Devendra Sharma, general secretary of the Braj block unit, was attacked at her home.

While the BJP had been quick to send teams, on May 31 and June 15, to probe the killings of its workers in Bengal, it will wake up to the heartland violence with a meeting tomorrow.

State BJP general secretary Sunil Bansal, who is close to national general secretary Amit Shah, said the state executive members would meet in Lucknow and “draw up a response to express our anger at the killings”.

Asked to explain the delayed response, he said: “At the local level, our workers have been agitating.”

Another state BJP insider, while admitting the reaction had been tardy, explained feebly: “People were still celebrating our (Lok Sabha poll) victory, so nobody was able to create an ambience conducive to staging protests.”

He said there were no “specific” directions from the central leaders on what the state unit should do.

Sidharth Nath Singh, party spokesperson and the assistant central minder for Bengal, explained that Bengal and Uttar Pradesh were “quite apart”.

“In West Bengal, we have sniffed a golden opportunity to come to power (in the next Assembly elections). Mamata (Banerjee) has not done too well in the three years she has been in power,” the Allahabad native said.

“It’s true that several of our people have been murdered in Uttar Pradesh. But when you contextualise the bad law-and-order situation in Uttar Pradesh, it also has to do with the rapes and hangings. In Bengal, it is ‘Operation Eliminate BJP’.”

Sidharth Nath said it was party president Rajnath Singh who had ensured the Bengal visit by probe teams, both of which accused the Trinamul government of victimising BJP workers. Rajnath quickly released their reports.

Sidharth Nath denied that the BJP’s aggression in Bengal was at odds with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on achieving a Centre-state compatibility that included the Mamata government.

“When it comes to development and governance, the Centre will be free of political bias. That doesn’t give a leeway to the West Bengal government to single out our workers for assault and murder,” he said.

Sources said Rajnath was treading “cautiously” on Uttar Pradesh. The issue appears entwined with the question of when he would step down as BJP president, having now become the Union home minister.

Sources said that although Shah was the party’s central minder for Uttar Pradesh and was being lauded for the landslide victory, he had “tactically” wanted to avoid taking a “unilateral” decision on an agitation against the state government without bringing Rajnath on board.

But Shah pulled off a coup of sorts by getting Bansal, his right-hand man, appointed as state BJP general secretary on Sunday. He has now directed Bansal to rev up the organisational engine again and prepare the cadre to hit the streets.

The BJP will face its first big post-general election test when by-elections to a Lok Sabha seat and 13 Assembly seats are held later this year.

“To sustain worker morale, we have to wrest most of these seats, if not all,” a BJP source said.

Cops shot

Two constables were shot dead last night in Firozabad, 285km from Lucknow, while chasing a gang of criminals, PTI reported.

It set off violent protests in the town, leaving a police boss and several others injured, and drawing a strong reaction from the Centre.

Delhi said it was concerned at the law-and-order situation in Uttar Pradesh.