Union home minister Rajnath Singh has publicly pointed out the fact that the BJP has not given ticket to even a single Muslim candidate in his home state of Uttar Pradesh.
Intriguingly, Singh has also said that had the Samajwadi Party not allied with the Congress, the BJP would have got 300 seats.
These recent public statements and the heresy in Amit Shah and Narendra Modi's campaign of "Ramzan versus Diwali" have left many within the BJP puzzled.
Just what is going on? "Mananiye nei Muslims kei ticket kei bare mein bayan kyun diya" (why did Rajnath Singh give a statement on "no tickets for Muslims") is the refrain in the BJP headquarters.
|Rajnath Singh is certainly upending the careful Modi-Shah script for Uttar Pradesh.|
Singh, one of the shrewdest politicians in the BJP, has found himself hamstrung by the primacy of the Modi-Shah duo.
From his speech to his mannerisms, he has always modelled himself on his idol former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the moderate face of the BJP.
In an earlier interview to me, when I asked if he "copied Atalji's gestures", he laughed and conceded that he did and "Atalji was his role model".
Unlike Modi, who has excellent relations only with Sharad Pawar, treating the rest of the opposition as a pariah, Singh has warm and close personal links across party lines with Sharad Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Digvijaya Singh.
Singh has also distinguished himself from Modi by never making personal attacks on other leaders and sources close to him say that he disapproves of the way Shah is conducting the UP campaign.
Describing the legitimate opposition as "Kasab" was just not right, say sources close to Singh. Also, Modi's comments on the Kanpur train accident — in which 150 people died on November 20 last year and which Modi described yesterday (February 24) as a "cross-border conspiracy" without any conclusive proof — has left senior leaders in the BJP, including Singh, aghast.
Singh has been upset with Shah and twice walked out of ticket selection meetings when his son Pankaj Singh was not announced a candidate in the first list.
The display of anger from a disciplined and phlegmatic Singh left other BJP leaders present in the meeting shocked.
His recent comment that Muslims should have been given tickets has upset Shah. Since Singh was part of the ticket selection process and still chose to go public has got the Shah camp wondering.
After Modi and Shah "dismissed" the Congress-SP alliance, Singh's calling it a clear and present threat has also made the faction ridden BJP wary.
Shah, who has given tickets to nearly 70 defectors, is now regularly called the "messiah of the turncoats" in the BJP.
So, with his "moderate" utterances, is Singh positioning himself as the other option to Modi? If the BJP wins, does he have chief ministerial ambitions? Singh has publicly dismissed this saying that he's done that job, but that he's always been a loyal soldier of the party taking on the mantle of the BJP chief twice.
Conspiracy theorists in the BJP also mutter darkly of the 160 club — which, for the uninitiated, is a group of senior BJP leaders who would have preferred that the party did not get a clear majority in 2014 so that a moderate leader like Singh or Sushma Swaraj could have become the prime minister (rather than Modi).
Though no proof exists of the 160 club, most senior leaders of the BJP are uncomfortable with Modi, who has ensured that they have been reduced to ciphers.
And, in a democratic cadre-based party like the BJP, the leadership is chafing at the "Indirafication" of the BJP by Modi and Shah.
Singh virtually has no powers in his own ministry with Modi confidante and powerful national security advisor, Ajit Doval, a looming shadow. Singh is barely kept in the loop on important matters such as the Pathankot siege, where he was told that the operation has ended 24 hours before and was left red-faced after he tweeted it. Even on the "historic" signing of the draft treaty of the Naga peace accord, Singh publicly said he had no idea.
So are his new public utterances a chance to target Modi? In the current turbulent times in the BJP that would not be a surprise. Singh is certainly upending the careful Modi-Shah script for Uttar Pradesh.
After the results are out, Singh may change his tune or increase the volume of dissent with a chorus of support from the margdarshak mandal, depending on whether Shah and Modi win.