Sangh is King? How Known Modi Critic Zadaphia Became Amit Shah's Choice for UP Poll Manager

Lucknow: On Wednesday, as the BJP released the names of new state in charges for the upcoming 2019 general elections, the name that stood out the most was of Gordhan Zadaphia. 

A known Narendra Modi-Amit Shah basher in the past, he had left the party in 2009 only to return five years later, without any fanfare. Now, suddenly he has made a stunning comeback to national politics as the BJP has entrusted him with responsibility of garnering votes in the most electorally crucial state. 


The decision to pick him was such a surprise that it was out of the left field for even the top leaders in the BJP’s state unit. 

Zadaphia will be replacing none other than party chief Amit Shah as the election in charge of UP. Shah was credited for the BJP's spectacular showing in 2019 as the saffron party had won 71 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats.

Now in the race to 2019, when the Modi wave is clearly on the ebb and the BJP faces a massive challenge from a united opposition of Samajawadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, Amit Shah’s handing of the baton to Zadaphia has raised questions. 

Does it indicate a clear RSS choice prevailing over the top BJP leadership? Or it a surprise move on the part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah? 

While Modi-Shah are known for their surprise moves on the political chess board, the facts point to the former being the more likely option. It's widely known that Zadaphia is a pure RSS man and an established Hindutva face. His differences with Modi in the past are also well established. 

Zadaphia was the MoS Home of Gujarat during the 2002 Godhra killings and subsequent riots. Serious questions were raised about his possible role in the carnage. The commission appointed to probe the killings questioned him thrice, but he was later cleared of all charges.

Zadaphia, however, was sidelined. He was not just moved out of the state cabinet, but was also pushed to a corner within party politics. In 2009, Zadaphia parted ways with the BJP to float his own political outfit.

He returned to the BJP only ahead of 2014 polls. According to the grapevine, this was at the insistence of the Sangh Parivar. However, even since 2014, there was no major reason to suggest of any renewed bonhomie between him and Modi-Shah duo. 

Zadaphia was in BJP’s Gujarat organization, away from the limelight. He was not even a BJP candidate in the 2017 Gujarat assembly polls.

From political oblivion, he has been thrusted to the centre stage as the UP in charge. Coming from the Patidar farmer community, one possible reason for it could be that the BJP is trying to send out a message to larger agrarian castes. This along with his staunch Hindutva image together may help in further consolidating the caste cauldron.

For BJP, caste consolidation through Hindutva outreach remains the single most important tool against the SP-BSP alliance. 

Beyond this, Zadaphia's new political role is an indicator of RSS will prevailing in the most challenging state. Political watchers also see it as indicator of Modi-Shah's acceptance of working with 'rivals' within the party after the poll debacle in three Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.


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