It has been just over a month since a landslide victory and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s team has already kicked off groundwork for campaigning for the 2019 polls. The BJP’s IT cell and various voluntary groups that worked closely with it during the 2014 elections have been advised by Modi to begin building a network of volunteers in states where the party’s vote share rose this time but fell short of securing seats.
“The BJP doesn’t have a strong presence in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. West Bengal is another important state where we do not have a strong voter pull. We have been advised by the party leadership to begin building our presence and channels of communication with voters in these states,” said an executive member of an online voluntary group working with the party since 2009.
Alongside the party’s IT cell, groups that have been roped in for the exercise include Friends-of-BJP, Neeti Central, and IsupportNaMo. Sources said Friends-of-BJP and Neeti Central have already set up offices in Chennai, which will be their headquarters for the southern states. “Several office-bearers from the party’s IT cell and these voluntary groups have been asked to shift to Chennai with their families for the next five years,” said a member.
The groups have been advised to “target” the middle class in these states. “To begin with, our core target group will be the urban middle class, people whom we can easily connect with through technology,” said the executive member.
The groups have decided to first build a network of ready supporters and then gradually rope in those sitting on the fence; once they have built a strong network of loyalists, they will venture into wooing the non-believers. “Once we have built a network of supporters, we plan to begin conversations about immediately relevant, local issues in these states and then extend these to larger subjects relating to policy, economy and other such issues of national interest. We will organise chat shows, seminars and events such as ‘meet your leaders’ on a regular basis. The party has assured that senior leaders will regularly come down to participate in such events. The idea is to build a constant presence,” he said.
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In his victory/ thanksgiving speech in Vadodara on May 17, Modi said he would need 10 years to transform India into a a global powerhouse. Sources said the “move south” directive is part of his long-term target of leadership for the next 10 years.
In the three southern states where it is seeking to rebuild, the BJP contested 50 seats and won only four, though its vote share went up. Sources said West Bengal is on the drawing board as of now. Since technology penetration is not too high in that state, they said, it will need a different strategy and thinking.