Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Campaign Stratagem of Team Modi

A Muslim shoe seller in Agra and a ‘saffron clad’ sadhu in Etah, a hub of Lodhs and Yadavs, actually summed up the differences in content, style and quality of campaign strategies of BJP, Congress and other parties.

“The Congress can revive itself in UP provided it has a ‘Amit Shah’ and someone who is also less seen on television,” remarked shoe-seller Javed Ali. His argument was in the face of a resurgent BJP onslaught it is the Congress alone which could fight and stem the rise of the saffron party as two other forces Samajwadi and BSP were too weak and too small. 

However, his regret was Congress never tried to give a fight. Congress leaders, he says, wanted to fight Narendra Modi with Arvind Kejriwal even as several leaders only thought mere appearance on television could help the Congress.
Agra Shoe-seller Javed Ali

The decision not to project Rahul Gandhi as PM-candidate was a blunder to the extent that you were starting a football match with two goals already scored against you, said Ali. 
I tried to argue with him that the efforts on the part of the Congress leadership and especially Rahul’s mom was to ‘protect him’. I repeated the same argument when I spoke on these lines with a motor mechanic in Aligarh

The day I visited Aligarh, elections were over and so the motor mechanic Aslam Ayoob Khan sounded more candid. His diagnosis while BJP foot soldiers interacted intensely since January 2014, no other party cadres were seen in action till March. “I was trying to follow Modi’s rallies from December itself. The feedback even I had given BJP team was apparently being referred by Modi in his speeches. Like he would ask, whether in last 10 years, any youngster got a job. I am a Muslim and would hate to vote for Modi, but it is also true, we did not get jobs,” he had said.

Subsequently, the hermit at Etah with a BJP campaign material around his neck, Sadhu Jaydev Prakash (see photograph)  also spoke at length of BJP’s campaign style in Etah, Etawah and Hathras regions. “I am a sadhu but they used me to be their booth worker. We also traveled into remote villages in ‘Modi-vans’ and spent time with villagers”. Thus, he claims, it was in one of those villages (Hussainpur) that he first heard, “aaj se hamara slogan hoga…..acchey din aney waley haen (Good days are coming)….That simply electrified workers as well as voters”.

Master Strokes:

# The slogan ‘acchey din aney waley haen (Good days are coming)’ generated hopes across the citizenry.
# Modi’s targeted strategy to appeal to youths whether they got jobs in last 10 years also paid dividends.
# Party coined different slogans and unlike the general feeling these appealed to all sections.
# Varanasi was a tactical endorsement of Hindutva sentiment
# Booth level planning by Amit Shah’s team helped


The hermit admits, Modi and BJP played ‘dream merchants’ at a time when people’s mood was downslide and everyone even in villages were feeling demoralized.
Thus, he says, BJP campaign managers also cleverly coined different slogans aimed at different sections. In retrospect, one can only give credit for such detailed and meticulous planning to work hard and hours and days of interaction at the ground zero.

Now, what is vitally important is Narendra Modi himself and hundreds of his admirers knew that 2014 general election was not only a mere opportunity, it was the ONLY opportunity to strike. There would not be a second chance with him. If he failed to deliver 2014 mandate to party, BJP would not only deny him permanently another opportunity to be party’s Prime Ministerial candidate yet again, but perhaps his continuation as Chief Minister of Gujarat would be unsustainable. Modi was thus never going to let this opportunity go wasted.
Hence an elaborate and multi-pronged campaign strategy was worked out in details.

Firstly, the electoral success of Gujarat was always at the backdrop. In Gujarat, Modi has been an image of Hindutva, a development man with no non-sense approach in guiding the bureaucracy and someone associated with the parochial but essential Gujarati pride.
So the primary task was to have that ‘image’ planned well at the national scale. Of course, the Congress-led government of the day in the centre and various state governments gave ample opportunity to Team Modi to make the maximum of the given situation.

Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Arun Jaitley and BJP president Rajnath Singh spent hours trying to evolve a concrete and near fool-proof plan for each state, each regions in the case of large states like UP and Andhra Pradesh and also district and at later stage booth-level management plans. In October 2013 itself, Modi had underlined the need of booth-level planning to turn the anti-Congress mood into BJP’s favour.
Most of its rivals if not all have clamoured against use of ‘huge corporate funding’ to build up Modi’s image, but none really matched the hard work and meticulous planning worked out by Team Modi.  

So how the plans were executed? A near free hand was given to Amit Shah and even party president Rajnath Singh, according to BJP workers, readily played second fiddle for matters related to Uttar Pradesh. Party insiders say contrary to an impression created Rajnath Singh was trying to push his fellow caste-leaders like Jagdambika Pal and Gen (Retd) V K Singh, the leadership had moved only after due consultations between Rajnath, Amit Shah and Narendra Modi.

For UP, particularly, after initial round of trial and error strategies; ultimately the party banked on region/district wise planning. In the process, in western UP, the party made good use of polarized atmosphere after Muzaffarnagar riots. About a lakh RSS foot soldiers were fanned across the state and asked to focus on booth level works. And perhaps our protagonist Sadhu Jaydev Prakash figures in that list. 

Amit Shah and Modi himself collected caste-creed details from every constituencies and booths. The party played Jat card to the hilt and even thought it should give a sincere fight against RLD chief and union minister Ajit Singh. Thus Satyapal Singh, the then Mumbai police commissioner, was zeroed upon. In Mathura, it played ‘Dream girl’ Hema Malini against Jat scion Jayant Chaudhary – another instance of minute planning, BJP claims.

BJP also focused on floating voters and tried to address each sections – like farmers, students, women separately. In public speeches and otherwise, the party never dwelt at caste or Hindutva issues and rather focused on economic issues like jobs. This brought in dividends as even the party was able to make dent among Yadavs (Mulayam’s caste bastion) and Dalits and other OBCs those were close to Mayawati.

At the same time, it never gave up Hindutva per se. Our hermit protagonist would confirm that when he said, “humey toh bataya gaya hae, Ram Mandir banega (we have been told that Ram temple will be constructed)”.

Selecting Varanasi for Modi was only aimed at polarizing Hindu votes especially in eastern UP where socio-religious sentiment is prevalent strongly. 

1 comment:

  1. Muslims in UP seem to have split in a big way, which in the end would benefit the BJP only.