The BJP has working and strategising more intently than ever since the first two phases of the polls, apparently uncertain about how it has performed so far. From Union ministers camping in assigned areas to leaders being told to use the road rather than helicopters whenever possible, here are five ways in which the BJP has reworked its strategy.
Union ministers at dist HQs
1. Union ministers and other senior leaders have been assigned district headquarters to camp in. Their brief includes spreading the “truth about reservation”, focusing on development and targeting the Nitish Kumar government with facts. BJP president Amit Shah stayed in Muzaffarpur Friday and in Bettiah Saturday. Among ministers, Ravi Shankar Prasad has been assigned the assembly segments in the Lok Sabha seats of Darbhanga, Madhubani and Jhanjharpur, Rajiv Pratap Rudy has been given those in his Lok Sabha constituency of Saran, while Giriraj Singh, who has been the most vocal against Nitish, has given charge of the the latter’s home district, Nalanda. Bihar BJP in-charge Bhupendra Yadav is in charge of Kosi and Seemanchal regions. “We have stationed 200-250 workers in every assembly seat to send people our message on poll issues, including reservation, and how Bihar will gain if the same alliance rules at the Centre and in the state,” a leader said.
More space to partners
2. While the alliance partners have been asked to continue with their individual advertisements, new NDA ads show leaders of these partners prominently alongside PM Narendra Modi. “Rotation takes place in a poll campaign,” LJP principal general secretary Abdul Khaliq said. “We have gone with our biggest face, that of the PM, as a strategy; it is a good thing that we are now giving space to alliance partners.” In Hajipur Sunday, all NDA contestants of Vaishali and Hajipur regions were with Modi, who named even district-level NDA leaders. Among the chiefs of the three alliance partners, Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi with consolidating Dalit votes. “Upendra Kushwaha appears the weak link and has to work hard to ensure transfer of Kushwaha votes to NDA candidates,” a BJP source said. The source conceded the BJP is worried about its alliance partners not having “done too well” in the first two rounds. “If there is any hint of caste polarisation for grand alliance, our caste leaders also need to ensure aggression among its core voters.”
Mukhiyas to woo backwards
3. Though mukhiyas and sarpanchs play an important role in every election, both camps have been trying specifically to win over Dalit and EBCs mukhiyas, who number about 500 in the third phase seats. The NDA is trying to effect a decisive split in Dalit votes. “Though there are hints of consolidation of Paswan and Mushahar/ Bhuian votes, Ravidas votes remain more inclined towards the grand alliance and the BSP in border areas,” said a BJP leader. The BJP is targeting the “silent EBC and Dalit voters” who, traditionally, don’t spell out their preferences like the Yadavs do. The BJP has inducted Mukesh Sahni, formerly with the JD(U), to pull the votes of EBC Mallahs; Muzaffarpur and Jhanjharpur have a sizeable EBC Sahni population. About 27 per cent of the electorate are EBCs, of whom there are 130-odd castes spread across the state.
No more controversies
4. The BJP has asked all leaders not to make any more controversial remarks. Besides top leaders including Manohar Lal Khattar and V K Singh, these two outside Bihar, controversial remarks have come in the state from Giriraj Singh —who brought up beef again in Nalanda Sunday. This came after leaders had been asked to talk only about development. Fresh BJP ads uses development to target its rivals. The latest asks Nitish why the state government’s flagship Nayi Pidhi Swasthya Gurantee Scheme to give health cards to schoolchildren was stopped midway. It also brings up a medical instrument scam. “We are trying to bring the discourse back to development from caste,” said a BJP leader, conceding remarks on beef and Dadri might have caused some harm.
Campaign after polls
5. The BJP and its alliance partners have got the 81 candidates of the first two phases to travel to the constituencies of the remaining three phases. Their task is to share feedback from the booths. “There is no room for complacency. We did certain things in haste and also underestimated the grand alliance workers, who succeeded in making the most of Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks on reservation. Now our workers are at every place to work against those canards,” said a BJP candidate allotted an assembly segment in Chhapra. The BJP has taken into account the caste profile of its leaders when choosing the areas to be assigned to them.