BJP workers and Narendra Modi volunteers are two separate entities. Modi volunteers are a powerful army who connect over the Internet and are focused on contacting voters at the booth level and providing inputs for Modi’s rallies and speeches. There are volunteers in each of the 543 constituencies. The programme is the brainchild of Rajesh Jain, national convenor of the Friends of BJP. A dotcom poster-boy, Jain sold his IndiaWorld site to Sify for Rs 499 crore some years ago. Jain’s initiative is named India272+ and it started some three years ago. Today, there are over two-and-a-half lakh volunteers. There are two hotline numbers to which anyone who wants to pledge support to the Modi campaign can SMS his voter ID number. Programme operators use the details to work out the full background of the new recruit. The goal is to reach 35 per cent of the population. Data on crores of people has been incorporated. Each volunteer seeks to ensure that at least 300 of the 1,000 voters in a booth are motivated to vote for Modi.
The NaMo army
Supporters of Narendra Modi trace his decision to recruit non-party persons for most aspects of his campaign to 2009. He witnessed the infighting in the BJP after the 2009 defeat and concluded that party workers did not work as a team. Modi’s formidable band of volunteers, on the other hand, is single-mindedly focused on ensuring his victory. Every day, individual groups from each constituency are given a set of tasks, which includes providing inputs for rallies, programmes, speeches, Facebook and Twitter. Preparations for Modi’s rallies can start months in advance. Volunteers send in suggestions about local issues in the constituencies Modi will be addressing. The many talking points are later passed on to Modi for incorporating in his speeches.
A large number of morning walkers in Delhi’s Lodhi Garden will be missing early next week. They are travelling to Amritsar to be present when the BJP’s Arun Jaitley files his nomination on April 7. Jaitley is a regular walker in the garden and he follows his exercise with a chat and a cup of tea with a number of fellow walkers, including lawyers, journalists, businessmen, retired government servants and others. Such is the comradeship of the walkers that many have booked their tickets by plane or train to be in Amritsar to help with the campaign. Even some supporters of the Congress are part of the Amritsar chalo programme, arguing that the individual is more important than the party.
Sanjaya Baru, media adviser to the Prime Minister in UPA-I, has written a book titled The Accidental Prime Minister, the Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh, which is to be released on April 11 after Delhi casts its vote. The original agreement was that it would be published only after the entire country votes. But the publishers, Penguin, pushed to advance the date in order to get maximum mileage before Singh retires as prime minister and is out of the limelight. The title and Sonia Gandhi’s photograph on the cover, along with Manmohan Singh’s, suggest that the book will be an insider’s account of Sonia Gandhi’s position as a rival power centre. Meanwhile, Pankaj Pachauri, the PM’s communications adviser in UPA-II, has given a TV interview pointing out the difficulties of projecting a PM who likes to be faceless. Singh shies away from engaging with the media, was persuaded with great difficulty to join Twitter and put his foot down on joining Facebook.
Hindi in Chennai
The DMK’s long-time hostility towards Hindi has softened considerably. Dayanidhi Maran has put up Hindi election posters in central Chennai for the benefit of voters from north India. Maran, former telecom minister, has even memorised a few lines in Hindi. He practised the language at a Holi event organised by the Rajasthan Youth Association.
Cricketer and MP Navjot Singh Sidhu’s absence from Amritsar to campaign for Arun Jaitley is being talked about. But there is also a notable omission in Congress candidate Captain Amarinder Singh’s camp. Sangrur MLA Arvind Khanna was previously constantly at the captain’s side. After Singh lost the Assembly elections, Khanna was closer than ever to the captain, often driving him around. But Khanna is not to be seen in Amritsar.