GUJARAT (2002), Madhya Pradesh (2003), Karnataka (2004), Bihar (2005), Punjab (2007) and now Karnataka BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley as a campaign strategist has got into the habit of hitting the bull’s eye. In December last year too, Jaitley’s hand was visible in the Gujarat results, even though it was overshadowed by Narendra Modi.
For the Karnataka campaign, Jaitley assisted by a dedicated team sifted through reams of private surveys and feedback to help the BJP zero in on the right candidates, the right issues and the opposition’s weaknesses. Once the campaign got going, he was back to deciding along with state leaders what loopholes were to be plugged; where L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj would have the most impact; and what one-time rivals B.S. Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar could achieve if they joined hands.
The strategy worked wonders. But this time too, Jaitley is loath to take credit and prefers to stay in the background, lest it rub egos at the top echelon the wrong way. But quite a number of BJP leaders agree his micro-management has the Midas touch.
Jaitley and Swaraj, a star campaigner in the state, joined BJP chief Rajnath Singh as he addressed the media to thank countless party workers for the results. But as the media called him the “man of the moment”, Jaitley replied: “I had little role in the BJP victory. Leaders alone don’t win elections for the party. What worked for the BJP more than anything was that it got everything right from selection of candidates (which he described as unanimous) to identifying issues and the tours Ananth Kumar and Yeddyurappa undertook together”.
Jaitley said he believed the BJP won because it was an emerging party, unlike the Congress, which is on the decline. The BJP got a positive mandate because its rivals, the Congress and JD-S, failed to convince the people. “They got a negative vote for opportunist politics. After backstabbing the BJP, they thought they could win on the basis of caste, which proved wrong.”
Jaitley also termed the election a referendum on the UPA’s performance. “Price rise, farmer issues and the inability of the government to fight terror played a major role in the election as did local issues like urban chaos and stability.” He said: “It (Congress) had no issues, no leadership. Even the campaign by Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was lacklustre.”