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165-member Gujarat BJP team in UP to give a leg-up to party’s poll campaign

The Gujarat BJP contingent camping in UP since December 16 is tasked with managing the campaign’s backroom operations, mainly related to door-to-door canvassing and micro-management of booths, for the upcoming Assembly elections

Written by Parimal A Dabhi , Kamal Saiyed |
Updated: January 20, 2022 5:45:56 am
BJP workers outside party office, ahead of UP elections 2022 in Lucknow, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. (PTI Photo)

The Gujarat BJP has sent a 165-member contingent to Uttar Pradesh to give a leg-up to the campaign being undertaken by the UP party leaders and workers in the run-up to the high-stakes Assembly polls.

The BJP’s Gujarat team, comprising of state unit office-bearers and former MLAs and MPs, is tasked with managing the campaign’s backroom operations, mainly related to the door-to-door canvassing and micro-management of booths, which has now become crucial given the Election Commission’s continuing ban on public rallies and roadshows amid the raging third wave of the Covid pandemic.

The Gujarat team members, who have been camping in UP since December 16, are miffed with Samajwadi Party (SP) president and ex-UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav for alleging recently that the ruling saffron party “imported” its workers from Gujarat to train its UP cadre to spread “hatred and rumours”. Akhilesh even urged the EC to take cognisance of the matter and send such workers back to Gujarat to ensure “impartial” elections in UP.

The BJP central leadership has divided UP into six zones and sent teams from various states, including Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Delhi, to the poll-bound state, assigning them the task of bolstering the UP unit’s poll campaign in the zones allotted to them.

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The Gujarat team, led by state BJP vice president Janak Bagdana, has been allotted Awadh zone involving 11 districts and 71 assembly seats. In the 2017 Assembly elections, the BJP had swept this zone, winning 63 seats with the rest going to the SP.

Designated as “Pravasi pramukh” (visiting president), Bagdana, who is a close associate of Gujarat BJP president CR Paatil, dismisses Akhilesh’s charges as “baseless”, maintaining that his team’s task is only to strengthen the party organisation’s campaign and boost its public outreach in Assembly constituencies in various districts. “We have finished two legs of our work — from December 16 to 24 and from December 31 to January 12. Now the third leg will begin January 21 and we will continue our work. The elections to 55 of 71 seats in Awadh zone are scheduled in the 3rd, 4th phases (of UP polls) and the remaining seats in the 5th phase,” he says.

The Gujarat team members were initially introduced to the district presidents and local Assembly seat-level party leaders with whom they have been working to “recharge the party foot soldiers and conduct virtual meetings with leaders”.

According to Bagdana, Awadh zone has been divided into 11 district committees, 327 mandal committees, 4,329 “shakti kendras” (polling stations) and 30,517 booth committees. “Each shakti kendra has 22 members who will contact the panna (lane-level) committee to get the voters for the party to the polling stations,” he says.

Former Surat mayor Jagdish Patel is in-charge of the Srinagar Assembly seat in Lakhimpur Kheri district, where Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni has been at the centre of a storm over charges that his son Ashish was part of the convoy that mowed down farmer protesters there in October, leaving five dead. Patel, however, claimed, “Mishraji is very popular in the area. We have found that a particular community in a particular place is unhappy with the incident and we are working to convince them (to vote for us). Overall there is no adverse effect of Lakhimpur Kheri incident for BJP.”

Kishor Chauhan, a BJP MLA from Vejalpur constituency of Ahmedabad city, has been assigned the Balrampur constituency, while former Vadodara mayor and Gujarat BJP co-spokesperson Bharat Dangar has been given the task to help with the party’s campaign in Lucknow.

A senior member of the Gujarat team said, “When we are facing Covid pandemic and the Election Commission has imposed restrictions, the role of groups like us holding small meetings with people becomes very important and useful in spreading the message of the government and government schemes to people. And this mode of campaigning will continue till the last two days of polling.”
Senior BJP leader from Surat, Praful Panseriya, said, “Our work is to keep all the teams active till the last phase of elections and make the foot soldiers of BJP work in the field and get feedback from them. They will also go to each and every house and talk to the voters and felicitate those who had availed the state and central government’s beneficiary schemes. The photos of beneficiaries will be uploaded to the UP BJP digital platform, which would be used in the social media campaign.”

Panseriya said in the third leg of their work they have been asked to organise a ‘Tridev sammelan’, a meeting of functionaries of booth, page and polling station committees of all Assembly seats in the zone, and assign them tasks for polling day, besides holding outreach programmes (“sampark abhiyaan”) for women, OBCs, Scheduled Castes, and farmers. “The BJP foot soldiers will reach out to them and convince them to vote for the party,” says Panseriya.

Gujarat BJP general secretary Pradipsinh Vaghela said it was a “routine work” for the BJP workers from one state to go to poll-bound states, adding he had spent six months in West Bengal during its elections last year.
According to Vaghela, some of the tasks assigned to such party activists from other states is to activate local party workers, to ensure organisational meetings are held properly, to manage the booths effectively, to activate the local organisation and try to resolve any problems faced by local workers while keeping a low profile.

“And this has been our working style for years, there is nothing new. Atalji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) and Advaniji (L K Advani) also must have gone to some states as party workers.” Vaghela said. “This helps the party in two ways — the party unit of a poll-bound state gets more hands, and the party workers who go to other state get to know the political scenario there. For example, in West Bengal I realised the kind of struggle and politics (BJP is facing there). So, the workers also learn.”

Dangar said, “If there are elections in Gujarat, party workers from other states also come here. I have not been given any specific responsibility; we work with the party workers and get to learn so many things since each state has its own method of functioning.”

A party leader said that the number of senior Gujarat BJP members taking part in UP poll campaigns has “increased in past several years”.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Gujarat BJP vice president Gordhan Zadaphia was “sah-prabhari” (co-inchargre) for 16 Lok Sabha seats of the Awadh region. Gujarat BJP chief Paatil has taken up responsibility for some key projects of the Varanasi constituency being represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Former Gujarat MLA Sunil Oza, who is the BJP’s UP co-incharge, handles the Kashi and Gorakhpur regions involving about 136 Assembly constituencies.

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