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PM Narendra Modi to touch 20 states in party’s 100-day 2019 poll blitz

The party has also revived ‘Mission 123’ — winning as many as possible the 123 seats that the BJP contested but did not win in the Modi wave that took it to an unprecedented 282 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2018 15:37 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
narendra modi,Modi,PM Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi.(PTI file photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will attempt to recover from its recent electoral defeats in three Hindi heartland states with a focused strategy to win new territories and forge fresh alliances, centered around a public speaking spree by Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the next 100 days, according to senior functionaries familiar with the matter.

The party has also revived ‘Mission 123’ — winning as many as possible the 123 seats that the BJP contested but did not win in the Modi wave that took it to an unprecedented 282 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The party had last year categorised these 123 constituencies into 25 clusters, with one leader given charge of each of the clusters.

Functionaries said that, over the next 100 days, Modi will tour nearly 20 states to “activate” BJP workers and seek support from voters in these 25 clusters. Among them, states such as West Bengal, Assam and Odisha — together they account for 77 Lok Sabha seats, of which the BJP holds just 10 — will be the key focus areas.

“PM Modi remains the most popular leader and continues to be the only candidate who can provide a stable government. We will capitalise on this,” said a BJP general secretary who asked not to be named.

Most of Modi’s appearances will be government programmes or public interactions. Evidence of the renewed focus on key ‘Mission 123’ regions surfaced over the past week. On December 24, the Prime Minister was in Odisha to inaugurate a new Indian Institute of Technology campus in Bhubaneswar, and then spoke at a rally in Khurda. His next stop was Assam on December 25 to inaugurate India’s longest rail-cum-road bridge over the Bramhaputra river. On January 4, the PM will return to Silchar in Assam, where the BJP has set a target of winning 11 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats — four more than its existing ally. Modi will be back in Odisha on January 5 to speak at a rally in Mayurbhanj, and is likely to return to the state for another meeting on January 15.

A second party general secretary said the seven different specialised fronts of the BJP have been assigned the task to reach out to specific set of voters, such as women, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the youth. Between December and March, all these fronts are holding conventions to streamline the outreach plan. “Each front has been given a specific target,” the second general secretary quoted above said.

For example, the general secretary explained, the BJP’s youth wing led by Poonam Mahajan has been given a 14-point programme aimed at winning support from first-time voters. It will launch a ‘Nation with NaMo’ volunteer network from January 12 to raise a team of young voters who is willing to work on the mission to re-elect Modi. Youth icons, including entrepreneurs or farmers who have brought change in their area, will be identified across the country and asked to support Modi’s 2019 bid.

In addition, a ‘Pehla vote Modi’ (first vote to Modi) campaign will take a pledge from first-time voters that the first time they exercise their franchise will be for Modi. This, too, will start from January 12 and town hall programmes in different parts of the country have been planned between January 16-22.

A third BJP office-bearer said the party was ahead of its rivals in terms of “cadre and strategy” but needs to work on “sentiment”. All programmes that are being planned aimed to improve the sentiment about the BJP and the Prime Minister, he said.

Along with this, party president Amit Shah will simultaneously work on streamlining the BJP’s booth-level plan by activating a team on every booth to reach out to over 220 million beneficiaries of government schemes. Shah will address about 15,000 leaders of the party at the national council meeting of the BJP in Delhi on January 11 and 12. This is the first time the party is organising its council meeting at such a large scale, with district-level workers also invited.

Gilles Verniers, assistant professor of political science and co-director of the Trivedi Centre for Political Data at Ashoka University, said the main electoral challenge for the BJP is twofold.

First, it contemplates greater possible losses in the Hindi belt after the recent defeats in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Second, it has become clear that its area of expansion is limited to a few eastern and north-eastern states, which won’t yield enough seats to compensate for the northern losses.

Besides, the BJP could even lose some seats outside the Hindi belt, in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, attenuating further the gains it could make in the east,” said Verniers.

In the recent elections, he said, voters have seemed to have made their own mind and do not respond to conventional verbal attacks against the Congress. “It is likely that the Prime Minister will conduct more rallies in areas where the BJP needs to expand. The fact is that he has been spending a large amount of his time campaigning since the beginning of his term. Now that most Hindi belt states are in play, it could even prove counterproductive to spend resources and time in areas where the gains can only be marginal,” he said.

First Published: Dec 31, 2018 07:12 IST