BJP sets up committees to strengthen election campaigns

Updated on Jan 19, 2022 04:52 AM IST

The poll panel has put a moratorium on all large gatherings and rallies, a preferred method of outreach, till January 23, forcing political parties to come up with alternative methods of canvassing.

UP BJP president Swatantra Dev Singh during party's door-to-door campaign for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, in Lucknow. The party has formed committees to strengthen its campaign in five poll-bound states. (PTI)
UP BJP president Swatantra Dev Singh during party's door-to-door campaign for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, in Lucknow. The party has formed committees to strengthen its campaign in five poll-bound states. (PTI)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has set up committees to strengthen its targeted campaigns in five poll-bound states so as to offset restrictions imposed by the election commission on traditional canvassing methods in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The poll panel has put a moratorium on all large gatherings and rallies, a preferred method of outreach, till January 23, forcing political parties to come up with alternative methods of canvassing.

On Tuesday, BJP president JP Nadda addressed leaders who have been delegated the work of strengthening the party’s campaign through interventions that will largely rest on the party’s digital reach. The teams announced on Tuesday will assist the state units in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Goa to relay the party’s message through physical interactions and virtual connections, according to a functionary familiar with what happened at the meeting.

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“Teams with three to four people in each have been given the charge of working with the state units to increase the penetration through social media platforms and to spread out in smaller groups to interact with either groups of professionals or undertake door-to-door campaign without violating ECI’s rules against gatherings,” the functionary said, requesting anonymity.

Union ministers Anurag Thakur and Rajeev Chandrashekhar, who are in charge of the digital outreach, will also have a team focusing on leveraging the party’s digital network.

Commenting on the BJP’s preparedness to take its campaign online in view of the pandemic, Chandrashekhar said, “The BJP’s digital outreach is being built very strongly on two pillars that are digitally enabled, our vast network of workers and the many crores of citizens who are beneficiaries of the government schemes who are also the best digital ambassadors of the BJP’s governance record and delivery on promises. Because of these two strengths and use of small groups or in-person contacts, BJP’s messaging and campaigning will reach every voter despite the restrictions of physical campaigning caused by the Covid virus.”

The BJP’s campaign typically involves appointing people in charge of each booth, who in turn have the responsibility of motivating voters to come out and cast their ballots. This is followed up with the identifying of supporters and fence sitters, who are then approached with the party’s programmes and schemes, and are also used to glean response to the government’s policies.

While the door-to-door campaigns will be restricted, party leaders said they will innovate even in these. “Even at small physical meetings, we will be able to relay our content digitally,” said the functionary cited above. .

Nadda and BL Santhosh, the BJP’s national general secretary overseeing organisation, have picked national joint general secretary Shiv Prakash and general secretary Dilip Saikia to coordinate such booth-level meetings, which usually involve two or three leaders meeting people in groups of 5-10 people.

Another team has been given the mandate of carrying out samajik samvaad by reaching out to socially and economically marginalised communities. “Work began in November last year but with the announcement of the elections, it will now pick up pace. The team’s mandate is to reach out to the unaffiliated sections among scheduled castes and other marginalized groups and to act as a bridge between them and the government. We get to expand our political reach while making the government cognizant of their concerns,” said a second functionary who asked not to be identified.

One of the teams will also assist in drafting and keeping track of the poll narrative that workers on ground will relay to voters. The issues that become part of the narrative are decided by the workers on the ground, taking into account the peculiarities and the specificities of the issues in each state.

“There are key issues that are likely to be raised during the campaign and the party has prepared answers to these. Part of the process of building a narrative is also being able to not just counter what the opposition says, but to drive the discourse,” said a third leader who asked not to be named.

Since the party will also hold virtual rallies, as it did during the Bihar assembly polls in 2020, a team will oversee the setting up of large screens in village squares and panchayat offices for broadcast of speeches. The party is particularly focused on sharpening its content that is disseminated through mobile phone and social media platforms. “Digital content is driving the campaign and in January alone in UP our content had 25 crore impressions across messaging platforms,” a fourth functionary said.

Teams have also been set up for supervising the execution of indoor meetings. The poll watchdog has allowed parties to hold meetings of no more than 300 people, or 50% of the capacity of a closed hall. National general secretary Vinod Tawde, national secretary Sunil Deodhar and in-charge of the OBC morcha Laxman Singh have been given charge of planning these indoor events that will be addressed by star campaigners and national leaders.

The party will also have volunteers campaign at marketplaces and public spaces carrying placards and pamphlets. “They will be masked and maintain social distancing. In some places, we will have campaigning targeted at women carried out through group activities. A team has also been set up to oversee the process of sending ballot papers to senior citizens, people with disabilities and Covid patients,” said the first functionary.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Smriti covers an intersection of politics and governance. Having spent over a decade in journalism, she combines old fashioned leg work with modern story telling tools.

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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