Lok Sabha elections 2019: RSS tweaks outreach plan to boost polling on May 19
On a day when Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati likened the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a “sinking ship” and said even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was not campaigning for it in Uttar Pradesh, it emerges that the BJP’s ideological parent is actually going all out to ensure a higher turnout for the last phase of polling on Sunday — because it hopes this will help the party’s fortunes.
Voter turnout in each of the six phases concluded thus far has been 1-2% more than in 2014, with a significant increase in some states such as in Kerala and in some seats in Madhya Pradesh (MP).
Now, with just 59 seats left in the final leg of the elections, the Sangh’s focus is primarily on West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, MP and Punjab.
According to two RSS functionaries aware of the developments, at a meeting of the Sangh, at the end of the sixth phase, it was decided to boost canvassing by the RSS cadre for the remaining seats.
“There were some changes in the style of canvassing this time. Apart from the traditional door-to-door campaigning that was buttressed with digital outreach, Sangh cadres reached out through frontal groups of professionals and entrepreneurs, and to influencers in each constituency to convey their message,” said a functionary privy to the meeting. The message is to redouble these efforts, he added.
The change in the canvassing style, the functionary said, is the reason why in some states the RSS is seen to be missing from the campaign.
On Tuesday, Mayawati said in Lucknow that she could not see RSS workers “anywhere in the election [campaign]”. She added that this is because the BJP has not fulfilled its promises.
Estimated voter turnout as per the election commission is 69.5%, down from 70.84% for phase I; 69.44% as against 69.6% for phase II; 68.40%, up from 67.4%, for phase III; 65.51%, up from 63.01%, for phase IV; 57.33% down from 61.7% for phase V; and 64.61% as against 63.69% for phase VI.
In March, after the annual meeting of its highest decision-making body, the Sangh emphasised the need to increase voter turnout to 100% so that the overall percentage of votes polled in favour of the BJP go up. During the last general elections, the BJP won with a thumping majority, but with a vote share of only 31%. The Sangh wanted to take that number up.
“For the upcoming round of elections for eight seats in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, 13 each in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab and nine in West Bengal, the cadre has been asked to campaign vigorously,” said a second RSS functionary on condition of anonymity.
In West Bengal in particular, where political violence has been reported and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has accused the ruling Trinamoool Congress of blocking its events , the Sangh cadre has raised the issue of “intruders” from Bangladesh and Myanmar “illegally taking over jobs and resources” in the state.
“The TMC government has been partial to the minorities. There are terror cells in large parts of the state and the security of the country can be jeopardised by illegal immigrants; we are raising these issues in public interest,” said a third RSS functionary from West Bengal, who asked not to be named.
Dilip Deodhar, an expert on the RSS (and who was once closely associated with the organisation) said the voter turnout figures notwithstanding, the Sangh is confident about BJP forming the government at the Centre.
“There are three views in the Sangh. One is that the BJP alone will get 272 seats (the half-way mark in the 543-member Lok sabha); the second is that the BJP and its allies, that is the NDA, will get more than 272 seats; and the third is that smaller parties who are not in the NDA will also extend support to the BJP in case of numbers falling short. But the one thing that the Sangh is absolutely confident about is Narendra Modi getting a second term as Prime Minister,” Deodhar said.