Internal BJP surveys may be projecting upwards of 125 seats in the Maharashtra assembly polls, but the stakes are too high for its top brass to leave anything to chance in a state which their party has never ruled on its own.
This explains why a tireless Prime Minister Narendra Modi is virtually carrying the campaign on his shoulders with a whirlwind 24 rallies and why party president Amit Shah has pressed senior leaders into service in the state and is personally monitoring every detail. The state votes next Wednesday.
Rather than leave the election to the popularity of BJP top guns, Shah has divided the 256 seats that the party is contesting into 55 segments, which are headed full-time by senior BJP leaders like union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, union chemicals and fertilisers minister Anant Kumar, MP Bhupendra Yadav, Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma, Telangana BJP president G Kishan Reddy, Gujarat ministers Pradeep Sinh Jadeja and Shankar Chaudhary, and two ministers each from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
“Each of the 256 assembly seats that BJP is contesting is managed by a party MLA, MP or a state minister. The leaders of these 55 segments coordinate with each other through Maharashtra general secretary in-charge Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Rajya Sabha MP Om Prakash Mathur and UP State organization general secretary Sunil Bansal. The three in turn are reporting into president Amit Shah for the final word,” said a senior party leader.
Although Shah is in constant touch with Modi and defence minister Arun Jaitley for electoral advice, his candid style of functioning and the fact that he is holding even senior leaders from the states accountable will come into sharp focus if the BJP does not come out trumps in both Maharashtra and Haryana. This is also because the results of the past three byelections have not exactly been in favour of the party.
However, if crowds are any indication, the portents are good: Modi has been addressing huge rallies all over the state including in the pocket boroughs of top NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena leaders. Shah has also pushed senior ministers like Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari into the election campaign. The internal surveys are pointing to a vote share of more than 28%.