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Modi looks beyond BJP to counter AAP

Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 08, 2014
First Published: 22:01 IST(8/1/2014) | Last Updated: 15:01 IST(9/1/2014)

In the wake of the Aam Aadmi Party's threat to challenge the BJP in urban centres, Narendra Modi is not counting on his party or its youth wing alone to spread his message.

In addition to BJP's efforts through its organisation network, pro-Modi groups like Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG) are fanning out to woo the youth.

The CAG, which was founded by 60 professionals, is focusing on 13 states, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where Modi has high stakes in terms of parliamentary seats.

The CAG will not speak so much directly about Modi as much as BJP units will do. But, as a CAG official put it, it will engage the youth in 196 cities, mostly tier 2 and tier 3 cities, to highlight the issues that directly deal with good governance, which the BJP PM will be seen as "the one with answers."

"We are aiming to build the largest grassroots community of informed and motivated citizens committed to make a difference,” said an official who did not wish to be named.

The CAG shot to prominence last October when it got representatives from 7,000 colleges to interact with Modi under "Manthan".

Significantly, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu shared the stage with Modi on that occasion. Billing its efforts as part of an initiative to strengthen "accountable governance" in India, Manthan encouraged college students to come up with innovative solutions to 14 themes widely recognised as some of the most critical challenges that India faces today.

The themes range from employability of the youth to electoral reforms to empowerment of women.

"Our effort is aimed at linking the debate about governance with Modi by involving youth who may prefer to discuss issues on not-so directly party platform," said another CAG official.

The CAG is also associated with Modi's pet project, the Statue of Unity Movement, for building the world largest statue in Gujarat for Sardar Patel.

In fact, after the "Run for Unity" programme announced by Modi across the country since December 15 and endorsed by the BJP, the CAG has been taking initiatives that match the saffron party's plan for the next three months.

The group will focus on mobilising the rural youth and the first-time voters to boost the BJP’s strategy to bring focus back on Modi's leadership as a counter to the Congress and AAP, and project him as the only alternative for better governance in the country.

Besides "Run for Unity" in 565 locations, the campaign would see a "Write for Unity", a slogan and essay competition on Sardar Patel and his ideals of India's unity and good governance in 200,000 schools in the next two months.

A photo collage initiative to reach out to grass roots-level elected representatives in 250,000 bodies in rural and urban areas is also in the offing.

A day ago, BJP president Rajnath Singh launched an initiative by his party's youth wing to attract students across universities in the country ahead in support of Modi, which will see scouting for "campus ambassadors" who will man "Modi cafes."

Led by Anurag Thakur, the BJP Yuva Morcha  aims to pick 5,000 campus ambassadors in 20 states to reach out to 2 million students. These envoys will also be engaged in registering new voters and also seeking views of students on "new politics and empowerment of youth."

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