The BJP is cooking up an elaborate plan to win the high-voltage BMC polls and among the ingredients is reaching out to those who gave up subsidised gas cylinders on prime minister Narendra Modi’s call. It also plans to woo those who benefit from the centre’s welfare schemes. The targets are clear: the party’s traditional middleclass vote bank and the urban poor, who traditionally backed the Shiv Sena or the Congress.
The BJP has been prepping for the civic polls for the last three and a half months. It has ordered a polling booth level survey of beneficiaries of central schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Atal Pension Yojana (PMAY), and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bandhan Yojana (PMSBY) to directly get in touch with voters and enlist their support for the elections due in February next year.
At the organisational level, the systems are in place. Communication cells have been set up in 227 wards of the city with nearly 9,500 polling booth level committees being set up.
“We want to enlist the support of those who have benefited from our schemes and even those who gave up the benefit. There are roughly 9,500 polling booths in the city with 1,000 to 1,200 voters. The central schemes like Jan Dhan offer financial security to the poor and linking with them will help us enlarge our footprint in slums, shanties, a voter base not traditionally associated with us,’’ said a senior party functionary, who did not wish to be quoted.
He added that those who had given up benefits like the gas subsidy represented the middle class, who could be BJP supporters but also fence-sitters. Party leaders believe that getting the fence-sitters on their side could well decide the results of the polls.
The BJP is systematically planning its strategy for the elections that could fracture its ties with the Shiv Sena, which controls the civic body. There is a view in the party that with 15 Mumbai assembly seats in its kitty, this is the BJP’s best chance to wrest the BMC from the Sena or at least increase its seat tally to force the ally to share the mayor’s term. Currently, BJP’s strength in the 227-seat BMC is only 32 against the Sena’s 75.
“After 2014, we have gone beyond our traditional vote bank of the middle classes and this is evident from the number of people who have joined us from the lower social strata of society. So we have started preparations in all wards,” said Sunil Karjatkar, organizing secretary.