‘Ab ki baar, Amethi hamaar’—this slogan runs in Vishuv Mishra’s mind as he hits Amethi’s narrow, dusty and potholed streets. “This time ‘didi’ has to win,” says the 24-year-old Amethi district general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the BJP’s youth wing. ‘Didi’ is Smriti Irani, the BJP’s candidate in the Congress stronghold. A room in Vishuv’s ancestral house, with posters and ‘Main bhi chowkidaar’ t-shirts strewn around, is the unofficial campaign war room. Vishuv’s team of local youngsters also coins catchy slogans and poems for helping Irani take on her rival, three-time MP and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
The SC Morcha sammelan is to be held the next day, March 31, and Vishuv’s family has pitched in with a steady supply of food, lemonade and coffee made by his elder sister, a PhD from Allahabad University. “I spent a year at BHU, felt homesick and came back. Then I completed my MA in political science from a local college,” says Vishuv, who joined the BJP in 2013 and campaigned for Irani the year after. Admitting that the BJP was almost absent in the constituency before 2014, he says, “Nobody had thought of taking on Rahul. It was taken for granted that Amethi is a Congress seat. We decided not to be on the defensive and worked on strengthening the party.” Their campaign against Rahul paid dividends, with his 2014 victory margin at just over a lakh votes—down from 3.7 lakh in 2009, when the BJP had come third behind BSP with just 37,570 votes. “Didi has been coming regularly to Amethi since and has established a family-like relationship with its people. She has helped fathers get their daughters married. She has helped rural women find employment—now they collect the fruit of the neem tree, which is then sold for medicinal purposes or used to make pickles,” says Vishuv, who seems to have all the data about Amethi at his fingertips. “There are 1,693 booths in the constituency. Our chief Amit Shah has set our target as ‘Ek booth, dus youth’ (10 youth to a booth).”
Besides 10 BJYM members attached to each booth as panna pramukhs, there is a booth president with a committee of party workers. The panna pramukhs visit designated families, tell them about welfare schemes like Ujjwala, Ayushman Bharat and Saubhagya, and identify sympathisers and potential voters. Vishuv spends a lot of time training his team. “I have to tell them how to talk to people, highlighting relevant issues and the schemes brought in by PM Modi,” he says. “We also formulate social media strategies to reach the maximum people.”
Conceding that the 14 per cent Muslim voters in the electorate of around 16.7 lakh might be difficult to convince, he says: “We will still reach out to them once and remind them of the benefits they have got. Maybe the women will vote BJP because we helped them get rid of triple talaq.”