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Lok Sabha elections 2019: ‘Focus on local issues,’ says RSS to BJP candidates

The Sangh has also asked the party and its candidates to “infuse more energy into campaigns and rallies”, they said on condition of anonymity.

india Updated: Apr 21, 2019 07:49 IST
Lok Sabha elections 2019,Lok Sabha elections,RSS
As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prepares for the remaining five phases of the general election, its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has asked candidates to focus on local concerns.

As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prepares for the remaining five phases of the general election, its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has asked candidates to focus on local concerns, as issues like the Balakot air strikes and the overall popularity of the government have “limited traction on the ground”, according to people aware of developments.

The Sangh has also asked the party and its candidates to “infuse more energy into campaigns and rallies”, they said on condition of anonymity.

With its experiment of motivating people to come out and vote — informally known as “third party campaign” — not having worked too well, the RSS has stepped up efforts to garner support for the BJP.

According to a senior functionary, the Sangh had for the first time started a campaign where, instead of directly campaigning for the BJP, its foot soldiers reached out to the masses and urged them to vote. The idea was to build momentum in favour of the BJP, which is seeking re-election at the Centre, in subtle ways.

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“The turnout after the first two phases has not been very different from the corresponding phases in 2014. The Sangh was eyeing a 100% voter turnout, because more people voting would mean a better shot for the BJP at winning with a majority. But that has not happened,” said the functionary quoted above.

The RSS pracharaks also reached out to the private sector to help with creating awareness on participating in the electoral process, and through their point persons, target groups such as doctors, academics and lawyers.

In the first phase, the voter turnout was 69.45%, slightly lower than the 69.7% in 2014. In the second phase, the turnout was 69.19%, marginally up from 66.52% in the previous election.

HT had earlier reported that after the Sangh’s annual meeting in Gwalior, it had set a target of 100% voter turnout to help the BJP win more votes. A high turnout, it had said, would widen the difference in vote share between the BJP and other parties.

However, the Sangh has now asked candidates to focus on issues that resonate locally. Daily meetings are being held between pracharaks (workers) and candidates.

“The Sangh feels that, apart from Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi and [BJP president] Amit Shah, the BJP does not have powerful speakers. So, candidates have been asked to improve their oratory skills and use crowdpullers such as Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath,” said a second functionary.

The Sangh has also earmarked areas on which it will focus for the upcoming phases of polling. These include the Sekhawati region in Rajasthan where Jat-Rajput caste equations are testy, and in Madhya Pradesh where the upper caste communities are reportedly unhappy with the BJP.

The 2019 polls are crucial for the RSS since it feels it has been targeted more by opposition parties than the BJP.

“The Sangh has benefitted from the BJP being in power in states such as MP — not only was its ideology the basis for many policies, it also grew stronger organizationally. But since the Congress is back in power [in MP], it is already facing the heat. So, it is imperative for the Sangh to see a friendly party in the seat of power [at the Centre],” the first functionary said.

First Published: Apr 21, 2019 07:43 IST