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BJP yatras a key poll strategy ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections

Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, all ruled by the BJP, will vote in November-December to elect a new government, and West Bengal, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, are the ‘greenfield’ states where the BJP expects to make major gains in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls

india Updated: Jul 29, 2018 23:17 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BJP,BJP yatras,Lok Sabha elections
Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah flags off “Gujarat Gaurav Yatra” ahead of forthcoming Assembly elections in Karamsad town of Anand district on Sunday. (PTI File Photo)

Yatras, or roadshows, are a key part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election strategy, and the party is organising them shortly in six states, including three where election are due later this year, three party leaders said on condition of anonymity.

Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, all ruled by the BJP, will vote in November-December to elect a new government, and West Bengal, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, are the ‘greenfield’ states where the BJP expects to make major gains in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

BJP chief Amit Shah will flag off the “Suraj Gaurav Yatra” of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje from Charbhuja Temple of Lord Vishnu in Rajsamand district on August 4, one of the three BJP leaders said. Raje launched a similar outreach programme from this temple in 2013 and stormed to power that year, defeating the incumbent Congress government.

The 45-day yatra will end with a rally in Ajmer on September 2 that may be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But within this roadshow, there will be many mini-roadshows.

“Each BJP MP will take out a separate yatra in his constituency during this period and it will merge with Raje’s when she passes through that area,” the first BJP leader said.

Chhattsigarh chief minister Raman Singh has completed the first phase of his Vikas Yatra between May 12 and June 14, and will set out on the second leg of a similar tour between August 16 and September 30, a second BJP  leader said. Home minister Rajnath Singh flagged off the first leg from Maoist hotbed Dantewada and Prime Minister Modi addr- essed the rally in Bilaspur on June 14.

“The yatra covered 62 out of 90 assembly segments by June 14 and the second leg will cover the remaining seats,” the second leader said.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also set out on a ‘Jan Aashirvad Yatra’ from the temple city of Ujjain on July 14 and will cover all 230 ass- embly segments before it reaches Bhopal on September 25. “The Prime Minister has been invited for the concluding rally,” an official in the chief minister’s office said on condition of anonymity.

“Yatras are an effective and time-tested tool to communicate our government’s achievements and party’s message to people,” BJP’s media cell chief and Rajya Sabha member and Anil Baluni said. It was veteran LK Advani who, with his Ram Rath Yatra in 1990, introduced the BJP to the concept of yatras for mass mobilisation and the party effectively used it in several successive elections.

Yatras aren’t exclusive to the BJP. Other parties too use it. For instance, Congress president Rahul Gandhi covered Karnataka in a Janashirvada Yatra ahead of the May 12 assembly election in the state.

Explaining its possibilities and limitations, Badri Narayan, professor at the Allahabad based G B Pant Institute for Social Sciences, said, “Rath Yatra politics is an opportunity to interact with the masses, and in that sense it can be a good mobilisation effort. But as a symbol, it is now repetitive and faded. So its impact may not be as strong as it was in the past.”

If the yatras are meant to reinforce the BJP’s strength in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, they are expected to give a fillip to the party’s efforts to make a mark in the other three states.

Three separate rath yatras will roll out from Cooch Behar, Birbhum and South 24 Parganas in West Bengal after Durga Puja, the third leader said. “Minority appeasement and under-development is a big issue. We will try to reach out to people on these issues,” the third BJP leader said.

The BJP won just two Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal in 2014, but its vote share jumped from 6% to 17%. Amit Shah has set a target for the local unit to win 22 out of 42 parliamentary seats in the state.

In Telangana, India’s youngest state, which accounts for 17 Lok Sabha seats -- it will vote simultaneously with the parliamentary election to elect a new assembly -- the BJP has just one MP .

A makeshift chariot that former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa used during his yatra in the run-up to Karnataka election was sent to Telangana to take out a ‘Jan Chetna Yatra’ between June 23 and July 6. The second phase of it will be taken out after the monsoon, the third BJP leader said.

A bus yatra will be taken out in Andhra Pradesh, another southern state that votes for the Lok Sabha and the state assembly simultaneously. “We are finalising the dates,” state BJP president Kanna Laxminarayana said. “We will expose the rampant corruption under the TDP regime.” Andhra sends 25 members to Parliament. The BJP also took out a 11-day-long Women Safety Yatra in Odisha from May 17.

Odisha also votes simultaneously for the Lok Sabha and state assembly.

First Published: Jul 29, 2018 23:17 IST