UP BJP set to counter alliance in real, cyber world
Even before BSP president Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav could conclude their first-ever joint press conference to confirm their alliance, a 56-second video containing excerpts of verbal attacks that the two leaders had made against each other in the past started doing the rounds.
A BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, admitted that the video titled ‘thagbandhan returns’ (BJP is calling the ‘gathbandhan’ or tie-up a ‘thagbandhan’, meaning fake alliance) had been shared in several WhatsApp groups by some party leaders and more such videos would be circulated in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Speaking about the video, a BJP leader close to chief minister Yogi Adityanath said: “A new film has come out. It’s a must watch.”
UP BJP president Mahendra Nath Pandey coined a new term, ‘gunahbandhan’ (alliance out of fear and to hide each others’ guilt), to describe the SP-BSP pact.
However, talking to this correspondent, many BJP leaders confessed that the alliance was a formidable one as was evident in the last year’s by-polls when the two parties had joined hands.
Another BJP leader said, “The caste matrix gives them an edge but now we have effective organisational machinery in place in Uttar Pradesh. Our mass connect campaigns are set to be rolled out to ensure a dialogue with varied interest groups.”
He added that the party had a clean leader in Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose credibility was higher than all the opposition leaders put together.
“We are confident of winning 51 per cent vote,” he added.
A 42.6 per cent vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha polls from UP had fetched BJP 71 of the 80 seats from the most populous state. In 2017 UP assembly polls, the BJP doubled its vote share in state polls from less than 20 per cent in 2012 to close to 40 per cent in 2017.
Athar Hussain from the Centre of Objective Research and Development said, “A 51 per cent vote share as claimed by BJP president Amit Shah is a good announcement to keep the cadre in a battle ready mode but is unthinkable now after the SP-BSP have firmed up their pact against BJP.”
A BJP leader said, “The SP which is contesting on 38 seats has also decided to give a few more to smaller parties from its quota. Then the BSP whose chief is also likely to contest the LS polls this time has also been forced to concede lots of seats to SP. Wait and watch, closer to the elections, pacifying the disgruntled cadre would become a tough task for these parties.”
The UP BJP has over 34 lakh followers on Facebook and the party’s Twitter handle has more than 10 lakh followers.
In addition, the BJP cadres are managing over 25,000 WhatsApp groups and over the next few months the party plans to increase the number to about 50,000.
According to BJP leaders, these groups will be used to counter the SP-BSP alliance on social media through its cyber warriors who would be active in all the 1,63,000 booths of the state to “expose the inherent contradictions among the alliance partners”.
The social media narrative will largely be ‘Modi vs unprincipled alliance’ aimed at what a BJP leader claimed, “exposing the one-time sworn enemies who have joined hands out of fear of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his relentlessly ruthless crackdown on corruption”.
Besides firming up an aggressive social media campaign, the BJP leaders said various disgruntled SP and BSP leaders who won’t get to contest LS polls due to alliance, would look to move out.
“Many of them are in touch with us,” a BJP leader said.
Akhilesh’s statement at the presser that any insult of Mayawati would be his insult was interpreted in the BJP as an SP effort to walk the extra mile to bury the guesthouse case of 1995 when SP cadres had targeted Mayawati, an incident after which SP-BSP became sworn allies.
“It was the BJP which saved Mayawati ji but she still sided with those who targeted her. This shows the kind of fear the opposition has of the BJP,” BJP leader Chandramohan said.