RSS tweaks outreach plan to boost polling
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.
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“There were some changes in the style of canvassing this time. Apart from the traditional doorto-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 decisionmaking 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 requesting anonymity.