The BJP has deployed high-profile leaders for the Palghar Lok Sabha bypolls and has centred its campaign on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies that would put the tribal belt on the national spectrum. The four-cornered contest on May 28, has in fray all mainstream parties — BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) — each adopting a different campaign strategy to reach out to voters across six assembly segments — Dahanu, Vikramgad, Palghar, Boisar, Nalasopara and Vasai.
According to BJP political managers, times have changed and the party is no longer allowed to take any election casually. “Under the leadership of party president Amit Shah, even a single bypoll is as important as full-fledged general elections.” Palghar Lok Sabha bypolls were necessitated following death of sitting BJP (MP) Chintaman Wanaga in January 2018.
The high-profile campaigners for the party include Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union ministers Purushottam Rupala, Smriti Irani, minister in UP government, Rita Bahuguna Joshi and popular Bhojpuri star-turned-politician Manoj Tiwari.
Mumbai BJP general secretary Amarjeet Misra said, “The presence of outside state campaigners is not a new phenomena in BJP. Since we are the ruling party, it becomes a talking point. Even the Congress gets its national leaders to campaign in state polls.”
In fact, CM Devendra Fadnavis has already added momentum to the campaign by holding five rallies in Kasa, Nallasopara, Jawhar, Boisar and Vasai.
BJP has adopted the do-or-die attitude in tackling the bypolls as it reckons its strength in Lok Sabha has shrunk from 282 seats (2014) to 272 (2018). It believes even an addition of one and two Lok Sabha seats would provide the needed cushion. At present the tally of 272 is half way mark and along with its other NDA allies it is well above 308 seats.
Another reason for BJP putting extra effort is to prepare for the bigger battle ahead in 2019 polls. A senior BJP functionary, requesting anonymity, said, “Winning one Lok Sabha seat helps to make inroads in six assembly seats. Therefore, we are leaving nothing to chance in this polls.”
What makes the battle tough is the multi-corner contest between BJP, Shiv Sena, BVA and Congress — which would lead to unpredictable division of votes. Almost every assembly segment has its own complex political equations and caste-community composition.
However, 20 per cent North Indian vote could be a decisive factor which BJP has focussed using UP campaigners. The district with 30 lakh population accounts for almost 18 lakh voters. The Catholics account for five per cent. A sizeable Gujarati and Jain dot the constituency.
Majority are Marathi-speaking across tribal and urban population. BVA, led by Hitendra Thakur, who wields clout in at least three assembly seats — Boisar (Vilas Tare), Nalasopara (Kshitij Thakur) and Vasai (Hitendra Thakur) — has gone for door-to-door campaign instead of mega rallies.
According to Vivek Pandit (Independent), “Thakur always used terror tactic to retain their political clout.” BJP wrests power in two Assembly seats. Vikramgad and Dahanu. Senior minister for tribal welfare Vishnu Sawra represents Vikramgad and Paskal Dhanare from Dahanu.
BVA’s candidates Vilas Tare represents Boisar, Kshitij Thakur (Nalasopara) and Vasai (Hitendra Thakur). Shiv Sena’s Amit Ghoda represents Palghar assembly seat.
Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, who is their main campaigner, has relied on the emotional appeal evoked by fielding Srinivas Wanaga, son of late BJP (MP) Chintaman Wanaga.