The Story of 71/80 How BJP Cracked Ut­tar Pradesh

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - RO­HINI SINGH

ttar Pradesh formed the ful­crum of the BJP’s as­ton­ish­ing win with the party win­ning an eye­pop­ping 71 seats, more than the UPA’s over­all tally and much higher than the pre­vi­ous peak of 57 seats in the 1998 elec­tions.

In a pos­si­ble in­di­ca­tion of the grow­ing stature of the man widely seen as the ar­chi­tect of that vic­tory, Amit Shah, 49, was front and cen­tre of the cel­e­bra­tions and was seated next to party Pres­i­dent Ra­j­nath Singh at the post-re­sults press con­fer­ence.

“The people of UP have re­jected re­gional par­ties and have cho­sen a strong na­tional party. This is a clear mes­sage from Ut­tar Pradesh,” Shah told ET on Fri­day evening.

Em­pha­sis­ing the sweep­ing na­ture of the vic­tory, Shah pointed out that only key lead­ers of the Congress and SP had won.

“The BSP wasn’t able to open an ac­count. The Congress and the SP have only man­aged to win seats where their lead­ers and their fam­ily mem­bers have con­tested. The BJP vote share has in­creased from 15% in 2012 to 42% in these elec­tions. I thank the people of UP for this overwhelming man­date. The Modi wave has swept UP,” said Shah.

De­spiteth­esweep­ingvic­tory,the re­sultswerenotinevitable,saidShah an­dother­swhoworked­with­him.

“There was a huge Modi wave in the coun­try but there were some fac­tors that could have limited the im­pact of the wave in UP–the state is in­flu­enced by caste, there are dark zones mean­ing ar­eas where nei­ther tele­vi­sion nor news­pa­pers are read or seen, it was dif­fi­cult con­vinc­ing lo­cals to vote for the BJP even if they sym­pa­thised with us since most prob­lems of wa­ter and elec­tric­ity are han­dled by the state govern­ment,” Shah told ET.

UP, with its 80 seats, along with neigh­bour­ing Bi­har, was crit­i­cal. But Shah in­her­ited an al­most co­matose or­gan­i­sa­tion. “We were not in power in UP for 17 years,” said Shah.

Another­partylead­er­pointed­out thatthere­was­nei­theras­trongstate lead­er­ship nor a cred­i­ble lo­cal face. Fur­ther,al­most42%of thevot­er­scom­pris­ingDal­its,Ya­davsandMus­lims

Utend­not­to­be­nat­u­ralBJPvot­ers. “Our catch­ment area was only 58% and our vote share had been de­clin­ing over the years,” said Shah. In 1998, the BJP had got 36% of votes which fell by nearly 9% the fol­low­ing year. In 2004, it got 22% of votes, 17% in 2009 and only 15% in the 2012 as­sem­bly elec­tions. Also, the party had not con­tested pan­chayat or co­op­er­a­tive elec­tions in the state in nearly two decades and had lit­tle to no con­tact with in­flu­en­tial people at the gram prad­han level. Af­ter tak­ing charge, Shah de­cided BJP would have to con­test lo­cal elec­tions.

“At the district and state level, SP and BSP lead­ers were more pop­u­lar and pow­er­ful than us,” said a close aide of Shah.

To­coun­terthe­se­un­promis­ing con­di­tions, a de­tailed, cor­po­rate-style plan­tomax­imisethenum­berof seats fortheBJPwas­draft­ed­byShah.

“In UP, you can’t have one ho­mo­ge­neous cam­paign. It is al­most as if seven dif­fer­ent states make up Ut­tar Pradesh. So, our strat­egy had es­sen­tially four lay­ers—one at the level of the seat, at the level of clus­ters, at the level of zones and then at the state level,” said an aide of Shah. Shah di­vided the seats into 21 clus­ters com­pris­ing of three to five seats each and de­vised dis­tinc­tive strate­gies for these clus­ters. Above the clus­ters, there were eight zones. To reach out to the max­i­mum people in a short time, the party con­ducted pro­grammes in 13,000 col­lege cam­puses to reg­is­ter vol­un­teers. “We had 800 full-time vol­un­teers be­low the age of 30… largely fresh re­cruits,” said the aide quoted ear­lier. More than 450 GPS-in­stalled ‘Modi’ vans with cam­paign ma­te­rial and a 16-minute video were dis­patched to the so­called dark zone in the state—ar­eas that do not have ac­cess to any form of me­dia. Shah met ini­tial re­sis­tance from statelevel lead­ers. “People would­meethi­mand say you are an out­sider and­what­doy­ouknow about the state. He would say, noth­ing but you­can­teachme.Be­ing an out­sider helped him take de­ci­sions ob­jec­tively and in the best in­ter­est of the party,” said a leader who has worked­with­Shah. Mi­nor­but­sym­bolic chan­gesin­tro­ducedby Shahin­cludeen­cour­ag­ingvet­er­an­lead­er­sto ac­cess­theIn­ter­ne­tand changin­gahier­ar­chi­cal class­room­style­seat­ing toamore­demo­crati­croundta­blestyle. Shah­him­self toldETthathe­had­de­cid­ed­to­keep­hisegoaside­while­workingontheUPgame­plan.“Ego­mat­ters when­both­haveit,”Shah­said.Shortly af­ter­tak­ingcharge,Shah­con­ducted day-long­meet­ings­in­group­swith thep­arty’sMLAandMP­can­di­dates who­had­lost­elec­tion­spre­vi­ous­lyto knowthere­a­sons­fortheird­e­feat.“It’s mor­eim­por­tant­to­knowwhy­welost elec­tions,” said a close aide of Shah. Thathelped­him­strength­en­sys­tems, whether­it­was­dis­tri­bu­tionof re­source­sor­plan­ningral­lies. To build crowd strength for Modi’s ral­lies, it was de­cided these should draw people from a ra­dius of 175 km. Also, one Bolero that could ferry 10 people per booth was the tar­get set by Shah. There are a lit­tle over 1 lakh booths in UP. This helped in gath­er­ing large crowds that helped con­sol­i­date me­dia per­cep­tions of a Modi wave. “Ev­ery rally, be it of Modi­jior other lead­ers was planned sys­tem­at­i­cally. For ev­ery Modi rally, we en­sured that three as­sem­bly seg­ments were cov­ered. Sim­i­larly, other lead­ers were sent to ar­eas where we weren’t very strong. ,” said the leader quoted ear­lier. Af­ter ev­ery pub­lic meet­ing or a Modi rally, feed­back was so­licited and the num­ber of at­ten­dees was cross-checked given the ten­dency of party work­ers to ex­ag­ger­ate. The cross-check­ing was done through a call cen­tre that was set up at the party’s head­quar­ters in Luc­know. “Ver­i­fy­ing de­tails was nec­es­sary to get an ac­cu­rate as­sess­ment of ground re­al­ity so that we could fine-tune our cam­paign,” said Shah who spent al­most ev­ery day, ex­cept for a week or so, in the state af­ter elec­tions were an­nounced. Shah car­ried out ex­ten­sive due dili­gence on ev­ery can­di­date be­fore fi­nal­iz­ing names and was ruth­less dur­ing ticket dis­tri­bu­tion. The cri­te­ria was sim­ple: deny tick­ets to those who had con­tested but never won elec­tions since lack of suc­cess was ev­i­dence of their un­pop­u­lar­ity and give tick­ets to those who be­longed to the con­stituency as they would be ap­proach­able.

So­cial en­gi­neer­ing or so­cial equa­tions was also taken into ac­count. The party, there­fore, gave the largest chunk, 28 out of 80 tick­ets to OBCs, 19 to Brah­mins and 17 to Thakurs. Tick­ets were also given to rep­re­sen­ta­tives of back­ward com­mu­ni­ties such as Nishad, Bind and Khush­waha who don’t dom­i­nate a par­tic­u­lar con­stituency but are present in large num­bers along the Ganges to help con­sol­i­date votes across con­stituen­cies. Shah is now plan­ning a doc­u­ment that will act as a tem­plate as the party ex­pands its base in states where it is yet to make a mark, par­tic­u­larly in east and south In­dia.



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A de­tailed, cor­po­rat­estyle plan to max­imise the num­ber of seats for the BJP was drafted by Shah

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