BJP picks Adesh Kumar Gupta to regain traditional voters, uniting the party

Adesh Kumar Gupta, BJP's Delhi unit chief
After assuming charge as president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Delhi Unit last Friday, Adesh Kumar Gupta outlined his priority: Strengthening the party among the residents of slums and unauthorised colonies. This crucial vote bank’s firm backing to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and earlier the Congress has kept the BJP out of the Delhi secretariat for over two decades.

Even for the most optimistic supporters, Gupta, 50, former mayor of North Delhi Municipal Corporation and sitting councillor, cannot promise a miracle. Fresh from an Assembly victory and with the Congress in perpetual decline, the AAP would be a stronger contender for the three municipal corporations that would go to polls (in 2022) during Gupta’s tenure. The challenge of expansion has to be balanced with fiercely guarding this turf.

Gupta lacks legislative experience but makes up for it with his organisational experience. The grandson of a freedom fighter, Gupta, originally from Kannauj, had been a student leader, and office-bearer in the party’s youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, besides being a block-level president in Delhi where he relocated in the 1990s. He had exhibited organisational skills in the party’s campaigns in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Uttarakhand.

 

 
It is unsurprising then that he seeks a solution in the overhaul of the organisation to go beyond the traditional vote bank of upper castes, the Vaishyas or Baniyas (his own caste) and the Punjabis. “We will include representatives from slums and unauthorised colonies, the youth, and the women,” said Gupta.

But the voter is now used to a transactional relationship with the government, thanks to free water and power (add to this free bus tickets for women) delivered by the AAP; it may well pull another rabbit out of its hat before the next election.

Then wouldn’t it be better if the BJP promises something tangible? “Free schemes have run their course. With the lockdown in place (Unlock 1.0 has kicked in), several units and shops are getting 'average monthly' bills. The government has failed to deliver on the Covid front; it is not even conducting tests,” Gupta claimed.

Posturing aside, getting the BJP’s Delhi unit’s house in order would be another tough ask. Many in the party are surprised by Gupta’s appointment. For them, he turned out to be a dark horse, whom they see as another chapter in the “hit-and-trial that is going on for a while now”.

“One advantage he has is that he won’t have an Assembly election in this tenure. If we are able to strengthen our units at the booth level and continue attacking the AAP government, the civic election can be better handled,” said a leader.

The broader understanding behind the move is apparent — that it’s to placate the Vaishya community, a core vote bank, or that the incumbent does not belong to any camp or that he is affable and mild-mannered or that a corporator is best suited to take the saddle when the municipal election is the immediate goal.

That his ties with BJP National President J P Nadda are old as both were in student politics and the trust he enjoys from Shyam Jaju and Siddharthan, two other national BJP representatives for Delhi, also send a strong message.

“He is grounded, not arrogant, and accessible. That is all that a worker needs in our party,” Jaju said, reminding how Gupta’s uncle was instrumental in getting former prime minister, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Yet there are asterisk signs. “He is from the Baniya community but doesn’t have the kind of clout that Harsh Vardhan, or Vijay Goel or Vijender Gupta (all state leaders from the same community) enjoys. So there isn’t a significant value addition. Similarly, even Manoj Tiwari (Gupta’s predecessor) was an outsider and mild-mannered, but did not have much success in uniting the factions,” said another party leader.

 

The challenge of uniting a divided house is no cakewalk. “Our MPs are highflyers — you have a national spokesperson (Meenakshi Lekhi), a celebrity who always wants to have a say (Gautam Gambhir), a former state unit president (Tiwari), and an MP who is well connected to the party’s top bosses (Ramesh Bidhuri),” said the leader.

The new state president will have to contend with all of them and sometimes, the differences that these high-profile politicians have with one another. Take the case of Ramesh Bidhuri and Delhi’s Leader of the Opposition Ramvir Singh Bidhuri who don’t see eye to eye, said party sources. “A low-profile politician may find the situation overpowering,” the leader added.

Another challenge, somewhat unique to Delhi, is every mandal or district president having direct access to a national general secretary or a Union minister. This has undermined the authority of the state leadership over the years, sources said.

But Gupta had a diplomatic answer: “To take the organisation forward and implement our programmes, all of us will come together. There is no question of someone’s ego coming in the way.” 
He also acknowledged the challenges on the ground: “When I was a mandal president, I realised ensuring proper coordination is never easy. I faced such challenges again while contesting the municipal polls but managed to win. That experience will come in handy.”


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