New Delhi: Ahead of the UP assembly elections, BJP president Amit Shah asked a Union Minister to prepare to contest zilla panchayat elections. It was a decision fraught with risks just ahead of a high-stake political battle since the ruling party generally has an advantage in local body polls.
"But the party president was very clear. He saw it as a part of the larger exercise to spruce up the election machinery of the party at the booth level,â recalled the minister recently.
[blurb]The BJP, under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, is now a party which is in election mode 24x7. In power, or in opposition, whether it's panchayat, municipality or general elections, the party in its new avatar is an election assembly line in continuum.[/blurb]
In his inaugural address at the Bhubaneswar national executive, Amit Shah told BJP leaders that the party is yet to reach its peak. We want to be the dominant political force, he said, from âpanchayat to Parliamentâ.
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Booth management is the new mantra in the BJP everyone swears by. Prime Minister Modi underlined its importance while addressing 13 BJP chief ministers earlier this month.
[blurb]Shah himself will be touring for more than 90 days till September, spending at least 15 days on booth management in provinces where the BJP is attempting to find a toehold. All MLAs, MPs and executive members have been assigned a target each to mobilise workers at the grassroots.[/blurb]
In UP for example, the party in the run-up to the polls was able to set up management committees in nearly 40,000 booths, covering more than 80% polling stations. In Uttarakhand, the aim was to mobilise as many miscellaneous and floating votes as possible. The BJP won three-fourth majority in the hill state despite the Congress succeeding to maintain its vote share. Post-poll analysis indicates the BJP was successful in mopping up a substantial section of non-Congress votes. Uttarakhand in the past was decided by a margin of less than one percent votes; this time the difference was close to 15%.
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Interestingly, Shah seems to have borrowed handsomely from the RSS to expand the BJP's electoral footprint. RSS pracharaks since Jan Sangh days are regularly sent on deputation to the BJP to manage party affairs.
[blurb]The current dispensation has introduced a new concept of 'vistaraks' to give shape to its expansion plans. These are full-timers who have volunteered to work for the party for a stipulated period.[/blurb]
In the recent concluded national executive at Bhubaneswar, it was announced that more than 2,500 such volunteers have expressed interests in working full-time for the party for one year, and nearly the same number for six months.
Earlier this week, Shah virtually launched the party's election campaign for West Bengal with his maiden visit to Naxalbari â the cradle of armed Left-wing insurgent movement in India. Eastern provinces and those along the Coromandal Coast are the new catchment areas under his radar.
Any shortfall in northern and western provinces in 2019 has to be filled in from these states. A new constituency has to be eked out every election. It is a work in progress.