Data crunching, war rooms, a solid plan: BJP nearly won Mumbai

BJP won 82 seats — up from the 31 seats it won in the 2012 polls — just two less than what ally-turned-foe Shiv Sena won

mumbai Updated: Feb 25, 2017 01:42 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times
BMC elections,Mumbai,BJP
Union minister Nitin Gadkari (centre, left), Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and party MLAs celebrate the BJP’s victory in Nagpur. (HT photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party had started plotting its phenomenal show in the civic polls nearly two years ago. It chalked out a plan to strengthen its organisational set up in a city where for three decades, it has only played a side role.

From building its grassroots presence to borrowing outsiders and pouring resources into data crunching, the party’s electoral success in Mumbai goes to, above all things, the powerful sync between the BJP-led government and its party organisation.

On Thursday, the BJP reaped these dividends.

It won 82 seats — up from the 31 seats it won in the 2012 polls — just two less than what ally-turned-foe Shiv Sena won.

“In the last one-and-a-half years, we studied the city, our strengths and strategic tie-ups in every area with local groups and communities. Our primary focus was to increase memberships and our presence, and to build up from the Assembly seats that we won in 2014 polls. Every legislator and MP worked towards it,’’ said BJP’s organisational secretary for Mumbai, Sunil Karjatkar.

Beyond the backdoor organisational work, city party chief Ashish Shelar’s aggressive targeting of the Sena over corruption in the BMC helped the party project itself as the opposition, even while being a ruling partner with the Sena in the BMC.

Unlike any other Congress CM the state has had, Devendra Fadnavis over in the last 2.5 years, worked in complete coordination with the party organisation. This meant announcing probes into BMC-led works, clearing decisions when highlighted by party leaders like Shelar and taking the direct responsibility of the party’s electoral wins and losses. This helped build an atmosphere for the polls, said a BJP minister.

From October 2016 to February 2017, the party, and the CM especially, also relied a lot on surveys – to understand the city, its different areas, the community make-up, and candidates’ popularity. Strategies were finalised on the basis of these surveys.

A result of one of these surveys was to focus on the non-Marathi speaking population — the north Indians who traditionally voted for the Congress and the Gujaratis, who usually go with the BJP .

Out of the 82 seats it won in Mumbai , 35 were won by its north Indian and Gujarati candidates. The party had fielded 53 such candidates. The sharply polarised battle between the Sena and BJP further accentuated this, with Gujaratis and North Indians coming to vote for BJP in large numbers. At the same time, the party also made a dent in the Marathi vote share, especially in the western suburbs in Andheri (East), Jogeshwari, Dahisar, apart from Girgaum in the island city.

The party also used all its resources to set up war rooms, fund aggressive social media and ad campaigns to get visibility and poach on ‘winnable candidates’ where they had no presence. These candidates included corporators and senior leaders from other parties as well as citizen activists. At least three citizen activists co-opted within the BJP won tickets and so did five other rebel candidates.

Finally, using the chief minister as the face of the polls gave the party its much-needed strength to build on the anti-corruption and development planks.

Read: BMC elections: After close finish, Shiv Sena says fight with BJP will go on

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First Published: Feb 25, 2017 01:42 IST