HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Challenge is to turn popularity into votes

Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 14, 2013
First Published: 23:40 IST(14/9/2013) | Last Updated: 23:42 IST(14/9/2013)

Just as the Congress hopes the 'hype' around Narendra Modi's elevation as BJP prime ministerial candidate dies down before 2014, he is getting down to the nuts and bolts of converting his popularity among sections of society into votes. This was the argument behind his early projection, say BJP strategists.

Besides extensive travel and public rallies to connect and re-energise BJP cadres, Modi will begin identifying areas that need his personal attention.

Apart from states where BJP is already strong, Modi's focus will be on states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Orissa -- where the BJP will have work hard to increase or retain the number of seats it won in 2009. Modi's attention will also be on 10 big cities where the BJP drew a blank in 2009.

His aides are counting on his image to attract first time 18-plus voters nationwide.

Modi's immediate attention is expected to be in states like Karnataka where former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa engineered split that saw the BJP bruised during the state elections.

With Yeddyurappa ready to work with Modi since BJP patriarch LK Advani is now sidelined, Modi would want unity among the state BJP leaders to salvage some of the 19 seats BJP won in 2009.

However, the new Congress CM Siddharamaiah aims to win not less than 20 of Karnataka's 28 seats and will give a tough time to the divided BJP.

In Jharkhand too, Modi may agree to rope in Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantric) party chief Babulal Marandi, who had left the party over internal differences. Jharkhand has 14 seats and the BJP won 8 last time.

As Arun Jaitley, an early proponent of "induct Modi" campaign, said, Modi will bring in votes not won by BJP before. "We are looking at the elections as a leadership referendum when people are disillusioned with a leaderless situation. Modi is bound to score for us heavily."

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