It's back to basics for BJP with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi adding a dose of Hindutva to the party's stated focus on governance. The campaign pattern for the upcoming polls is likely to be similar, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The party will discuss corruption and governance but polarisation will be attempted around Modi and his veiled allusions to Muslims. Hindutva-plus-development would be the hidden poll theme to tap core and floating votes.
BJP's Muslim workers are, however, jittery. A day after quitting the party, Aamir Raza Hussain said the word "kutte ka bachcha" was an abuse in every language. Other minority workers of the party haven't come out in the open yet. They say the mood is "negative" and Urdu press has come down heavily on the puppy and burqa remarks. Even the BJP's Sikh workers in Punjab don't seem too pleased.
"This time the Hindutva pitch is personality-based rather than issue-based, unlike in the 1990s' Ram temple movement", a BJP leader said. "In UP, Modi and Amit Shah will mobilise Hindu political opinion beyond caste voting patterns, and in Bihar it will be about Modi alone."
Some in the party fear that Hindutva will alienate the floating voter wanting change this time. "You can never have a Hindu vote bank. The core voters would anyway come, but floating voters don't like shrillness," a BJP leader said.
In UP, the most populous state with 80 Lok Sabha seats, caste makes mobilisation of Hindutva difficult, with major castes like Jatavs and Yadavs split between BSP and SP, and upper castes leaning towards one or the other party as the BJP isn't in the race any longer.
"We can get extra votes beyond caste if we use Modi's Hindutva credentials. This is our only hope for revival in UP," a BJP leader said. In Bihar, Modi's backward status and 'minority appeasement' by other parties will be the campaign agenda.