The BJP has decided to scale down Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s involvement in the poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh, a departure from its original plan to use its most popular face to the optimum level. BJP sources said Modi would address 14 rallies in UP-- two in each of the seven phases of elections.
The number of rallies in UP—excluding seven that he addressed before the announcement of polls—is considerably less than what he addressed in Bihar. He addressed over 30 rallies in the Bihar assembly elections in 2015.
While the strength of Bihar assembly is 243, UP elects 403 MLAs. The BJP’s stakes are also higher in UP that sent 71 BJP MPs to the Lok Sabha. Besides, the results of UP elections would be seen as a verdict on the NDA government’s decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1000 banknotes, although the BJP has since returned to its Hindutva agenda in the state.
“The idea is not to over expose him,” a BJP general secretary involved with campaign drafting said. Too much focus on Modi, party strategists say, would mean that the results would be linked with his popularity and his government’s performance, even though state elections are all about local factors.
With demonetisation and surgical strikes on terror camps across the border in Pakistan failing to weave a grand narrative for the BJP, the party has fallen back on Hindutva and caste equations.
The BJP is now banking on senior leaders from UP-- Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra, Uma Bharati, and Yogi Adityanath – to fire up its poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh. The party had lost Bihar to the grand alliance of the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress. The loss in Bihar had led to murmurs within the party about its strategy to see a mandate for Modi and the NDA government’s development agenda. Unlike in Bihar, the campaign management in UP has been left to local leaders. “We have taken lessons from Bihar debacle,” the BJP leader said, adding, “It is not being repeated in UP.”
Modi had campaigned extensively in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand elections, too. But those states had gone to polls shortly after the Lok Sabha elections that had witnessed a “Modi wave”. The BJP seems to be coming to terms with the fact that there is ebb and flow in any wave.