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The BJP Big State Plan
This election season, one thing is certain. If Narendra Modi’s ‘Mission 272’ for the Lok Sabha polls in summer has to go beyond just aspirational value, the complex electoral mosaic of Uttar Pradesh must be painted saffron. After all, with 80 seats—the most from any state—the Hindi heartland state could well pave the BJP’s road to the Centre.
If any party gets UP sewed up, it will do no harm to its prospects. No one knows that better than the BJP and Modi, its prime ministerial candidate. On March 2, therefore, when Modi descends on Lucknow to kickstart the final phase of his Lok Sabha campaign in the state, everything is being projected in larger-than-life fashion. Modi’s trusted lieutenant Amit Shah has been tasked with collecting an audience of 15 lakh for the Sunday rally. Sources say it’s being planned as the “biggest rally UP has ever seen, with details being worked out over many knowledge exchange sessions between local leaders and Shah”. In fact, the blueprint for the rally was prepared a month and half back in Delhi by Nand Kishore Yadav, the party’s leader of the Opposition in Bihar, and Laxmikant Bajpai, its UP unit chief. An insider says the Bihar unit of the party had explained the methods used to mobilise crowds for Modi’s Patna rally. “That’s why Nand Kishore Yadav was asked to help out the team working in UP. Every little detail has been taken care of.” According to sources, some Rs 3 crore has been collected to fund the rally.
The focus is on “consolidating the non-Yadav OBCs, who make up 36 per cent of the state population and 38 per cent of the voters, in favour of the BJP”, explains a source. Says an insider, “If UP has to be won, the BJP must woo the OBCs. With Narendrabhai as our PM candidate, we already have an edge, because in UP, Modi is being projected as the tallest backward class leader in the country. We only need to consolidate this votebank.” Another salient angle being worked on is to erode the rld’s Jat base in western UP; post the Muzaffarnagar riots, this seems to have worked. And Modi is trying to reach out to non-Jatav Dalits and Paasis.
Internal surveys by the party show that, with Kalyan and Uma’s return, the BJP is better placed among the Lodhs, besides the Jats, Gujjars and Kushwahas in the state. “For the first time after the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, we are looking at a scenario where upper castes will back the BJP along with the OBCs. It’s a social engineering plan that has been well thought out and meticulously executed in the state by Shah,” says a source close to senior leaders. Clearly, the party is banking on a post-Muzaffarnagar polarisation in UP; the leadership seems comfortable that the upper castes and Jats will back the party.
It is with this in mind that, led by Shah, the UP unit is focusing on OBCs, having logged some 160 OBC sammelans over the last two months, egging them to voice their anger against the UPA and the Samajwadi Party’s “minority appeasement”. “They feel the Ranganath Misra committee report puts them at a great disadvantage. This anger against the ruling parties is being tapped and channelised,” says a senior leader. Eyeing the OBC vote, a social justice programme is on; and khaps are being wooed by giving them more say at BJP meetings.
While the target is to mobilise a 15 lakh audience at Modi’s March 2 rally, Rs 3 crore has already been gathered for it.
Shah is working overtime to help his Saheb reap a rich harvest. Starting March 3, a day after Modi’s rally, Shah will unveil his ambitious plan of talking development—Modi’s master card—to the rural hinterland. It’s barnstorming, and as a campaign manager put it, “the target is back-of-beyond areas where no newspapers or TV sets bring news of Modi’s development work”. Shah has hired some 160 OB vans that will travel to the interiors taking Modi’s development message to villagers. Two vans have been assigned to each constituency, and they will take TV sets to play short films on Modi’s development work in Gujarat and his plans to replicate them at the national level.
So far, the BJP has held five major rallies in the state and over 220 sammelans, which include those for OBCs, intellectuals, working professionals and cadres. Insiders confirm the state unit also has the sanction of Shah to work closely with RSS units to mobilise people at the ground level. RSS and ABVP leaders like Krishna Gopal and Sunil Bansal have been roped in to enthuse the cadre at the grassroots. Not just that, with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat devoting time in UP to meet office-bearers of the Sangh and BJP leaders, massive attention is being paid to “mobilisation at the poll booth level”. The RSS cadre therefore is being used to do what it is best at—mobilising public opinion at the grassroots through door-to-door campaigns.
“This time, we are taking a bottom-up instead of a trickledown approach. Workers in every district have been asked to prepare a list of candidates for panchayat elections instead of Lok Sabha polls and tickets will be given to those who have greater hold at the ground level,” says a source. What’s more, taking cue from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the BJP unit has asked ticket-seekers to back their claims for candidacy with serious numbers. So every aspirant has to furnish the Lucknow office with a list of at least 10,000 party workers, along with their signatures and photographs, as proof of support at the ground level.
Not just that, the party unit plans to carpet-bomb the state with Modi’s presence. Another 80 rallies have been planned, with Modi addressing at least six rallies per day from April 1. Shah, meanwhile, says he has toured 71 out of the 80 constituencies himself, spreading Modi’s message. In the days to come, sources confirm, they’ll field both Modi and Rajnath from eastern and western UP respectively to ensure that the saffron hue in the hinterland runs a shade deeper.