There are only two days left for the first phase of polling in Gujarat on December 13, and Narendra Modi’s “war room” — from where he, Arun Jaitley and a few close associates drive and monitor the election campaign – is going full throttle.
At a meeting that carried on till 2am at the CM’s residence on Friday, Modi and Jaitley reviewed each of the 182 constituencies. If these elections are to serve as a springboard for Election 2014, the BJP has to at least touch its 2007 tally of 117 seats.
The war room, which operates at different times from the CM’s residence, the party headquarters and a flat in which Jaitley stays when he’s in Ahmedabad, is taking maximum interest in inputs coming in from Saurashtra.
“This time, we are fighting two elections. One in Saurashtra, and the other in the rest of Gujarat,” a senior BJP leader told HT.
So, Keshubhai Patel, who broke away from the BJP to form the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP), is the war room’s main worry. Will the Leuva Patels, the backbone of BJP’s almost unbroken 17 years in power, switch from Modi to Keshubhai? Which party will Keshubhai damage more, the BJP or the Congress?
These are questions the CM’s war room, which includes V Satish, joint organisational secretary, IK Jadeja and Nirmala Sitaraman, who handle the media and publicity, is pondering over. Purshottam Rupala, the party’s national vice president, RC Faldu, state BJP president, and controversial former home minister Amit Shah provide political inputs.
Rupala, Faldu and Shah sat with Modi to select each candidate.
Modi's war room is receiving real-time electronic information through internet-enabled e-camps that have been set up in all 182 constituencies.
Groups of four or five party workers in each constituency e-mailing real time information on the kind of crowds Keshubhai and the Congress leaders are drawing and what issues they are focusing on. These workers also keep an eye on rebels.
The war room functions 24/7 and Modi, an early riser, holds the first review at 5 am with members of the team that is in charge of social media. He decides what to tweet and wants to know what is being said about him. Jaitley, who shuttles between Delhi and Ahmedabad, gets a call from Modi by 8 am, even before he’s back from his morning walk.
All ads have been designed entirely around Modi and his message. “The main focus is to make this election a referendum on Modi,” said Jaitley. The war room has set itself an internal target of 117 seats; a gamble that will reveal itself only on December 20, when the votes are counted.
The final tally will determine whether Modi can make his pitch for 2014 or not.