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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Lok Sabha Elections 2019: BJP campaign combined rally blitz with ground work in UP

While its top leaders were targeting the opposition, the BJP think-tank was busy plotting against the alliance due to which the party held at least one meeting in each of the 403 assembly segments.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: May 20, 2019 10:16 IST
Manish Chandra Pandey
Manish Chandra Pandey
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Voters stand in queues to cast their votes during the seventh and final phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh,  on Sunday, May 19, 2019.
Voters stand in queues to cast their votes during the seventh and final phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, on Sunday, May 19, 2019. (Rajesh Kumar / HT Photo )
         

Facing a formidable challenge from the SP-BSP-RLD alliance, the BJP ran an extensive campaign, did considerable groundwork, armed itself with feedback from party and professional sources in an effort to give a good account of itself in Uttar Pradesh, said party leaders inside the BJP’s war room at the state unit office here.

The party also made it a point to highlight the Modi government’s welfare schemes and reach out to the beneficiaries.

The party’s electioneering blitz in the state included over 700 rallies. Twenty-nine election meetings, three more than planned, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi were part of this blitz. Party chief Amit Shah addressed 28 election rallies. He also held two road shows in Gorakhpur and Amethi. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath held 163 rallies (37 of which were outside UP), followed by deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya with 110 and deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma with 84. Rallies by union home minister Rajnath Singh and union minister Nitin Gadkari were also part of the campaign.

While its top leaders were targeting the opposition, the BJP think-tank was busy plotting against the alliance due to which the party held at least one meeting in each of the 403 assembly segments.

To ensure the impact of the Modi government’s schemes was not lost on the voters, UP BJP general secretary (organization) Sunil Bansal visited Deoria a little before the elections were declared. There, he surprised local leaders by telling them that he wanted to play a game.

“Tell me how many of you can recall all the initiatives and schemes of the Modi government,” he asked after handing each of them pen and paper.

“The leader who could recall the most was invited by Bansal to help others remember the schemes,” a party leader privy to the meeting said.

The party established 33 call centres to collect feedback. The party’s cyber cell also pitched in by “countering propaganda.”

A party leader said 80 professionals, all pass-outs from IITs and IIMs, were sent to each constituency and they kept updating BJP’s top leadership about “caste chemistry, placating rebels, candidate selection among other things.

“Their assessment was supported by parallel feedback from the RSS vichar manch, the BJP local’s leadership and the feedback mechanism put in place by Shah,” a close aide of Bansal said.

“From August 2018 to March 2019, the BJP think-tank had, under Bansal’s guidance, verified 30 lakh foot soldiers, calling each of them personally and tasked them with connecting to nearly 13 crore voters. Nearly 146 different programmes were chalked out to connect with the cadre,” explained BJP leader Chandramohan.

Placating rebels was part of the BJP plan as Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi ‘Vadra’ was busy fielding BJP rebels on the Congress ticket.

“For instance in Barabanki, sitting MP Priyanka Rawat was seen sharing the stage at PM Narendra Modi’s rally days after her emotional outburst at having been denied a party ticket. In various seats, a damage control exercise was initiated. As the polls entered the final phase when party ally SBSP rebelled, the BJP quickly decided to test its homegrown Rajbhar leadership,” a senior leader said.

The meticulousness of its campaign gave the BJP the confidence that it would be able to keep its losses in UP to a minimum.

Little wonder, 20 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats were circled red in the constituency chart hung on Bansal’s office wall in a first floor room of the party’s state headquarters in Lucknow.

The BJP strategists, busy tuning into exit polls once the voting ended, claimed that their UP loss, despite the Samajwadi Party- Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal (SP-BSPRLD) alliance, would be limited to about 20 LS seats.

However, experts with whom HT shared the BJP’s internal assessment interpreted it differently.

Athar Siddiqui of the Centre for Objective Research and Development said, “The assessment simply means that the party is surely losing a minimum of 20 Lok Sabha seats from its 2014 tally of 71 seats in UP. But, its loss could be much more because the caste advantage is with the alliance though to BJP’s credit Modi’s rallies seemed to have helped the party immensely. Without him, they would have really struggled. But if the alliance does well, the Akhilesh Yadav-Mayawati understanding could last a lot longer.”