On hindsight, opting for a candidate who was viewed as an outsider over entrenched local leaders proved to be a strategically wise move by the BJP, which won the Chandigarh seat after three consecutive defeats in all the general elections after 1999. The party not only won the seat but did so by a hefty margin.
Though the BJP's victory will probably be attributed to the "Modi wave" that swept the country, the party's able handling of the local poll campaign was also a major factor.
Only a couple of months ago it appeared all was lost for the party's cause when Kirron Kher arrived on the scene after she unexpectedly got the ticket and was greeted with black flags with her vehicle pounded by eggs. However, the party leadership was able to convince the local stalwart, Harmohan Dhawan, who was seen to be openly opposing her candidature.
The BJP set up a core team led by its organizational secretary, Ajay Jamwal, who took charge of the campaign and was later able to take along all the local leaders - local unit chief Sanjay Tandon, Satya Pal Jain and, most importantly, Dhawan. While Tandon and Jain were asked to concentrate on the city's residents, Dhawan's focus remained on the villages and slum colonies, for long considered his stronghold.
"There were clear instructions from the party leadership that the office bearers, big or small, would face action if Kirron lost in their home booths," a top BJP leader said.
Kirron Kher, though faltering throughout the campaign, always tried to strike a balance among the top local leaders.
"Party workers were charged up due to the Modi wave. The problem was lack of interaction, leave alone coordination, among the local leaders. However, once they broke the ice campaigning got smoother," remarked a senior leader.
The BJP exploited Tandon's preparatory work for the campaign down to the booth level and also went out of its way to mollify Dhawan from time to time to exploit the vote share he had in villages and slum colonies.
However, the party leadership wisely avoided any media interaction with Kirron, fully aware she was not conversant with the issues facing the city. The BJP also got a shot in the arm in the form of support from RSS workers who worked behind the scenes, giving valuable feedback to the leaders.
In order to minimise any harm caused by infighting within the local unit, the party eventually chose to field an outsider
The party's organisational chief headed the campaign strategy
All the local leaders were told action would be taken against office- bearers if the party lost his their home booths
The party avoided a negative campaigning and instead targeted the sitting MP on issues of the city's development front
BJP had a well-oiled cadre - the strongest among all parties contesting the polls, down to the booth level