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BJP’s election strategy: 900 rallies, 67,000 workers, 10,000 WhatsApp groups and chopper landings

After winning a record 221 seats in 1991, primarily due to the ‘Ram Janmabhoomi’ movement, the saffron party’s seat-share had witnessed a steady decline.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Lucknow | March 12, 2017 5:39:52 am
election results 2017, BJP, BJP elections, Bhartiya janata party, amit shah, Narendra Modi, Modi, PM Modi, Rajnath singh, keshav prasad Maurya, election campaigns, BJP election rallies, BJP campaigns, ram mandir, ram temple, Uttar pradesh, UP polls 2017, UP election results, UP BJP, india news, indian epxress news On November 12, party president Amit Shah interacted with youths via video conferencing. (Source: PTI photo)

Spurred by its extraordinary performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had started preparing for this Assembly election as early as two years ago, strengthening its organisation upto the booth level and starting campaigns. Its strategy paid off on Saturday, when it won majority after 26 years. According to party leaders, the poll gameplan was planned and executed under the supervision of BJP president Amit Shah, state in-charge Om Mathur, state party president Keshav Prasad Maurya and state general secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal. After winning a record 221 seats in 1991, primarily due to the ‘Ram Janmabhoomi’ movement, the saffron party’s seat-share had witnessed a steady decline. In the following state elections, it won 174 seats in 1996, 88 seats in 2002, 51 seats in 2007, and 47 seats in 2012.

The party kicked off the campaigning process with the ‘Dhamma Chetna Yatra’ on April 24 last year. Led by Dhamma Viriyo, a Buddhist monk and former MP, the yatra moved through the Dalit-OBC pockets of 175 Assembly constituencies, proclaiming support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his initiatives. Starting from Sarnath, the yatra concluded in Kanpur in October with a rally addressed by BJP national president Amit Shah. During the yatra, 453 meetings were organised at different locations.

“The Dhamma Chetna Yatra was the first major step BJP took to hit Mayawati’s Dalit vote bank. The focus was on Jatavs, who used to be traditional voters of BSP,” said a senior BJP leader, who was part of the strategists’ team.

In the meantime, the party also organised a campaign for registration of new voters from September 1 to 17, during which it got 9.14 lakh youths registered as voters. It had set up 6,235 camps in colleges and public places for registration.

On November 5, the ‘Parivartan Yatras’ started from four places — Saharanpur, Jhansi, Ballia and Sonbhadra — passing through all 403 Assembly segments and concluding in Lucknow on December 24 in form of a roadshow. BJP state spokesperson Chandra Mohan claimed that through these four yatras, party leaders reached out to around 50.65 lakh people across the state, informing them of the “achievements of the Narendra Modi government and the policies of BJP”.

Another stategy to connect with young voters was the setting up of 1,650 ‘College sabhas’. BJP had deputed 2,058 “college ambassadors” for executing the task. On November 12, party president Amit Shah interacted with youths via video conferencing. A similar programme called ‘Udaan’ was organised on January 6, through which Union Minister Smriti Irani spoke to women and girl students. The party also organised 88 ‘Yuva Sammelans’ to woo the youth.

Likewise, 77 ‘Mahila Sammelans’ were organised in all districts to target women. To attract OBC voters, the BJP held 200 ‘Pichhda Varg Sammelan’, in which party leaders addressed meetings with OBCs. To reach out to SC/ST voters, 18 ‘Swabhiman Sammelans’ were organised. Fourteen ‘Vyapari Sammelans’ were held to focus on the traders’ fraternity.

Behind the party’s omnipresence on social media were a number of coordinated teams. At the state level, it formed a 25-member team of information technology experts. Six regional unit-level teams had 21 members each, 90 district units had 15-member teams, while each Assembly constituency had a team of 10 members each. These teams formed a whopping 10,344 WhatsApp groups to circulate audio and video clips among party members, and operated four Facebook pages — ‘BJP4UP’, ‘Uttar Dega Uttar Pradesh’, ‘Ab Maaf Karo Sarkar’ and ‘UP Ke Mann ki Baat’.

Before election dates were announced, BJP also engaged 33 MPs to move in 92 Assembly segments and address 263 public meetings there.

Under ‘UP Ke Mann ki Baat’, BJP moved 75 video vans to collect feedback from people and gauge their expectations from the government. On the basis of this feedback, it drafted its election manifesto. The party also formed a research team that identified important issues for each Assembly constituency and drafted a manifesto for each seat.

Important points for speeches were sent to all leaders to use during rallies.

From November 20, 2016, to January 29 this year, BJP organised ‘Kamal Melas’ in 34 districts, where the Centre’s schemes were highlighted through exhibitions, posters and videos. For farmers, BJP first organised 3,564 ‘Alaao sabha’ (bonfire meetings), starting January 11, and then ‘Maati Tilak Pratigya Rally’ — where BJP MPs and MLAs applied ‘tilaks’ of soil on their foreheads pledging to fulfil farmers’ wishes — in all 75 districts. Under the ‘Booth Vijay Abhiyan’, the party distributed voter slips to every household with an appeal for the local candidate.

During campaigning, BJP organised 900 election rallies, 23 of which were addressed by Modi. In every Assembly segment, it organised 2 to 4 public meetings. “As an attractive feature, the party ensured that its leaders reach each constituency by helicopter,” said a BJP leader.

Vijay Bahadur Pathak, the party’s state general secretary, “People maintained faith in the work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Also, organisational cadre was prepared for executing the party’s campaigns and programmes.”

“The party ensured that none of its leaders made controversial remarks,” said another leader.

Organisational level

At the organisational level, the party had 2.03 crore new members during the ‘special membership campaign’ during the past year. It maintained a database of 1.8 crore members with their names and addresses. Among these members, 67,000 became active workers. Moreover, 1,025 training camps were organised for training nearly 88,000 workers in the party’s ideologies and policies.

For each of the 1,47,401 polling booths in the state, the BJP formed a booth committee of 10 to 21 members each. It organised meetings of booth presidents of all six regional units, which were addressed by Amit Shah. It held 389 Assembly meetings of 88,253 booth presidents.

The fund for party programmes — Rs 16.91 crore — was collected from members under the ‘Ajeevan Sahyog Nidhi’ campaign.

BJP also regularly made complaints and demands to the Election Commission on different issues. “That was done strategically so that the authorities at district-level follow rules and conduct polls fairly,” said BJP election management in-charge JPS Rathore. Visits of party leaders for election meetings were decided by the party state headquarters according to the caste equation of each constituency. For the first time, BJP organised a press conference of fireband leader Yogi Adityanath.

“The party also kept all senior leaders in good humour and did not give them the opportunity to speak against it. Sons of several senior leaders were given tickets to keep them happy and busy in respective constituencies,” said a BJP leader.

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