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Modi image, page committees, Patel govt: How BJP scripted historic win in Gujarat

The selection of candidates and the micro-planning ahead of the election are other strategies that are considered as the key to the results the BJP got.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his speech at the victory celebrations for the Gujrat Assembly polls at the BJP HQ in New Delhi on Thursday. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)
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Modi image, page committees, Patel govt: How BJP scripted historic win in Gujarat
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The BJP’s historic victory in Gujarat is being seen as a comprehensive win of the macro and micro strategies of the party with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at its centre.

“Narendrabhai is our trump card and the entire strategy of the party revolves around him. He has got an amazing emotional bonding with the people of Gujarat that has been fetching unprecedented results for the party. In this election, too, the main strategy of the party was to seek votes projecting him. Like in the past, it got us unprecedented results,” said a BJP leader.

According to the leader, the poll plank of the ‘double-engine sarkar’ was a part of this strategy.

“People of Gujarat love Narendrabhai (Modi). When they know that ultimately it is Modi who will be calling the shots in Gujarat, irrespective of the CM here, they will vote for the BJP. It is also to be noted that Gujaratis are business-minded who will vote to secure their interests as well. When there are so many projects coming to Gujarat in which they will have (direct or indirect) interests, they cannot go for any other electoral choice,” the leader said.

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Top sources say that when the party was facing huge anti-incumbency, another strategy that seemed to have worked is the change of government just a little over one year. “Initially, such a massive change was being seen as a decision that could boomerang. However, it has worked in favour of the party if you see the end result. It refreshed people’s mindset that fresh faces are being given a chance by the party,” a party leader said.

The selection of candidates and the micro-planning ahead of the election are other strategies that are considered as the key to the results the BJP got.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah was firmly behind this part of the party’s poll preparation. Shah stayed in Gujarat for a significant time, toured all four regions of the state—Saurashtra-Kutch, South Gujarat, Central Gujarat and North Gujarat—before the task of ticket distribution was taken up.

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In a number of interviews before the elections, Shah made it clear that winnability was the only criteria in the selection of candidates. The party also gave tickets to close to 20 Congress turncoats. Even after allotment of party tickets, Shah is believed to have carried out a damage control exercise to ensure that those denied the tickets did not hurt the party’s electoral prospects.

A leader who is considered to be directly involved in formulating BJP’s strategy, said, “Micro-planning that includes booth management and formation of the page committees was one of the key aspects of BJP’s strategy that helped the party register such a mammoth victory in the elections… Formation of page committees was the most underrated weapon that has got us huge success. Look at the vote share! We have got around 51-53 per cent votes. It is when there were so many marriages during those days of polling. It is because our page committees have worked effectively. From the day of polling, we have been saying that our voters have come out and voted and that it was the opposition party’s voters who have abstained. Today’s results have proved it.”

Echoing a similar view, another party leader said, “The page committee members were being contacted on hourly basis on the day of polling. I have never seen such an effective strategy of booth management. It is a great achievement that the party could bring its voters to the booth although there was some sense of complacency prevailing. If you can check the booth-wise figures, you would notice that in many places Muslims—considered Congress loyalists—have not come out in big numbers.”

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“Carpet bombing” of campaigning by bringing a battery of national-level party leaders such as Union Ministers Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, Rajiv Chandrashekhar and Parshottam Rupala, in addition to the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Goa to canvas for the party seemed to have complemented the rallies of PM Modi and Shah.

“To bring the Union Ministers and national party leaders to the state for campaigning has worked in favour by setting the tone and emphasising the Hindutva leaning of the BJP. Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath specifically proved to be popular,” said a party leader. “Hindutva has been the USP of BJP and as the dates for the polls came closer, the focus of Modi and Shah shifted to highlight that and they spoke on issues (directly or indirectly) related to Hindutva.”

The people of Gujarat have seen the violence-stricken days under the Congress rule and the BJP has proved that it can provide a peaceful rule without any communal riots, the leader said, pointing out that the presence of the UP and Assam CMs added to the party’s narrative on those lines.

According to party sources, the BJP strategically focused on the proximity of the Congress with people such as Medha Patkar, Kanhaiya Kumar and Swara Bhaskar to portray the party’s image as “anti-Gujarat”. A number of BJP leaders talked about these persons and their association with Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in their poll speeches.

Highlighting this, a BJP leader said, “Additionally, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s statement (purportedly) comparing Modi with Ravan also added to the narrative that the Congress was an anti-Gujarat party which we wanted to highlight.”

First published on: 08-12-2022 at 20:35 IST
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