While it has set an ambitious target of winning all 26 Lok Sabha (LS) seats, the BJP in Gujarat has been bogged down by the unimpressive track record in LS elections, which has not improved in the last decade of Narendra Modi’s rule. At best, the party had been able to touch the mark of 20 seats in Lok Sabha only twice — once in 1991, soon after Ram Rath Yatra, and in 1999, when the BJP formed government at the Centre, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The BJP is banking on higher voter turnout and an upsurge of “Gujarati pride”, with its chief minister running for the country’s top job, to achieve the feat that has remained elusive despite Modi’s steady rise on the national scene. In fact, since 1991, its vote share in Gujarat has steadily declined — more than 4 per cent — and number of seats won in the last five elections have remained unimpressive.
Little wonder then that Modi himself has been advocating higher turnout to workers and voters. And the BJP relies on its star campaigner to put an impressive performance. “We should work hard and make sure that maximum people come for voting,” said Modi, with Lal Krishna Advani by his side while addressing BJP workers meet in Gandhinagar on April 5. He added, “Earlier, the Election Commission used to see heavy polling with suspicion. But now the EC is also doing awareness campaign for voters.”
“Gujarat being a predominantly Hindu society, heavy polling benefits mostly the BJP,” said a top BJP leader. “The BJP has been investing a lot of energy to see heavy polling this time around when we want to achieve something that we have not so far (26 seats),” he added.
Senior BJP leaders, like party general secretary Vijay Rupani, believe that Modi’s candidature itself will help the BJP to pull more voters to the booth. “For Gujaratis, Modi’s candidature is one of
the most important things,” said Rupani.
However, the two general elections that Gujarat BJP fought under Modi’s rule, its performance has been the worst since 1991. In 2004, when the India Shinning campaign by Atal Bihari Vajpayee team failed, the BJP’s vote share in Gujarat dropped to 47.4 per cent from the all-time high of 52.5 per cent in 1999. Similarly, the BJP vote share further dived to 46.5 per cent in 2009, though the total tally had increased from 14 to 15.
In 1991, a year after Advani-led Ram Rath Yatra started from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya with the promise to build Ram temple, the BJP’s vote share crossed the mark of 50 per cent (20 seats). But since 1991, the party’s vote share has been on steady decline, except for 1999. But the drop has been nearly 4 per cent — from 50.4 per cent to 46.5 per cent.
When top leaders, like Modi and his close aide Amit Shah, are shouldering national responsibilities, the BJP’s campaign strategy is multi-layered and aided by the latest technology.
The BJP cadre, the RSS, youth wing, mahila morcha, several caste cells within party and an army of social media enthusiasts have been running a micro-level campaign to meet voters door-to-door and engage them in street meetings. Besides, the thrust has also been on social network and personal contacts thorough volunteers, like page presidents, who contact all the voters listed in the electoral rolls assigned to them.
On its foundation day on April 6, the BJP ran a whole-day campaign of door-to-door visits across the state. It was run at the booth level to mobilise voters.