The blaring loudspeakers have fallen silent as the high-octane campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls came to end in the state on Monday. It was the most fiercely contested election, but as far as the campaigning goes, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appeared to have stolen a march over its main rival Congress right from day one.
Observers feel the Congress started its campaign a bit too late as it took a lot of time in sorting out its candidates for the Lok Sabha seats. Be that as it may, the ruling party’s poll campaign did pick up at a later stage either as it started projecting chief minister Harish Rawat’s as its mascot for the LS polls.
The BJP, though, appeared ahead of its rival in campaigning from the beginning. There are two reasons for the same. First, the odds appeared to favour of the saffron party, thanks to the anti-incumbency factor going against the Congress. Besides, the countrywide craze for Gujarat CM and BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi also appeared to give an edge to the party’s aggressive election campaign. “Like elsewhere, the people in this state, especially its youth, too appeared convinced about the success of Modi’s Gujarat model of development,” said Abhimanyu Kumar, co-convener of the state BJP’s media cell. “No wonder, his (Modi) public meetings drew huge crowds everywhere.”
“Besides, Modiji’s innovative electronic media driven campaign management was also a major boost for us. It not only gave pumped up our poll campaign in the state, but also helped us keep up the tempo till the end,” claimed state BJP general secretary Prakash Pant. Referring to the party’s use of social media like Facebook and Twitter, he said the strategy worked as it “helped us rapidly disseminate our poll issues among the people”.
The BJP also tried to corner the Congress both on the local and national issues. “Our party strongly publicised among the people the issue of the UPA government being steeped in corruption and its failure to check price rise,” Pant said. “We also effectively raised the issue of the state (Congress) government’s failure to deal with the issues post last June’s flash floods,” added Kumar.
The BJP, in fact, had started its poll campaign about five months ago when Modi addressed the party’s “mammoth” rally here on December 15. The Congress appeared in a flux. One of the reasons behind the uncertainty dogging the ruling party was the change of guard in the state that saw former CM Vijay Bahuguna being replaced with Harish Rawat. The move came in the wake of reports that the Congress would lose all the five seats in the state if Bahuguna was allowed to continue as the CM.
Congress leaders though deny that the party got late in launching its poll campaign. “Rawatji had launched the party’s election campaign soon after he took over as the CM on February 1,” said his media coordinator Rajiv Jain, adding that Rawat was chosen as the party’s mascot for the LS election on the basis of his performance. “A series of decisions he took within just 32 days of taking over not only helped speed up development but also the reconstruction process in areas that were hit by the June deluge last year.”
“Our campaign got a further boost after party vice-president Rahul Gandhi addressed a series of public meetings in the state followed by Soniaji, our president,” Jain told HT.
The most visible among the small parties during the election campaign was the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), though its campaign remained hamstrung with the scarcity of funds. “We hardly had the funds to match the poll campaign of the parties like the BJP and the Congress,” said AAP candidate from Almora LS seat Harish Arya. “Still, there was a massive response from the people to our anti-corruption stand,” he said.