SP to borrow BJP electoral strategy to try defeating it in 2024
While BJP and BSP have dedicated cadre to manage polling booths and carry out door-to-door campaigns, the SP lacks this
Taking a leaf out of the electoral strategy of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Samajwadi Party is building a network of dedicated booth-level workers to transform itself from a cadre-based outfit ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
This is the first attempt by SP leaders to form a dedicated cadre that will do booth management for both assembly and Lok Sabha elections. Senior leaders said the plan was initiated last year and is now nearing completion.
According to the party leadership, out of 403 assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, each assembly constituency has around 300 polling booths.
SP members have named a cluster 5-6 polling booths as ‘sector’ and a group of 10 sectors as ‘zones’. Each zone in an assembly constituency will have 50-60 polling booths.
“Each of the 403 Vidhan Sabha constituencies will have 5 zones and 5-6 sectors that will be in direct contact with the polling booth agents. This exercise is being done for the first time by the Samajwadi Party. Earlier, it was only through public meetings, road shows and cycle rallies that the SP leadership campaigned,” said a senior leader based in Lucknow.
SP leaders said that during the planning for the Lok Sabha elections, it was realised that both the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have dedicated cadre to manage polling booths and for door-to-door campaign. Only the SP was lacking this.
“The nature of election management and campaigning has gone through tremendous changes. SP was always known as a mass-based party, and the need for a transformation to a cadre-based party was never felt. The Lok Sabha elections in 2024 will be the first test for this new strategy,” the SP leader added.
SP leaders are also keen to expand the voter base beyond the traditional support groups of Muslims and Yadavs. The two communities have been staunch supporters of SP and have often helped it form a government in Uttar Pradesh.
SP members said the party is making considerable attempt to attract new voters while trying to retain its traditional base. Senior leaders said that while MY was earlier known for Muslims and Yadavs, the new definition will be Mahila (women) and Youth.
“It is unfair to say that only Muslims and Yadavs vote for the Samajwadi Party. The vote percentage of SP was 37 per cent in the 2022 assembly polls, which means that every community voted for the party. The new mantra of the party is to reach out to other backward classes or Pichada (P), Dalit (D) and Alpsankhyak (A) or minorities. We are targeting PDA because it goes beyond caste or religion and all communities are affected because of issues like price rise, inflation, cost of farming and increases in prices of petrol and diesel,” said Abbas Haider, a SP national spokesperson.
The SP has formed a 10-member team for all the 1.74 lakh polling booths in the state. The task given to these workers is to reach out to the marginalised sections of the other backward classes (OBCs) as well as Dalits who have not been the traditional voters of the party.
“Apart from the polling booth workers, a dedicated team of people will reach out to all the members of the weaker sections among OBCs and Dalits. The workers have been asked to make at least two visits to these people in every constituency in every 15 days. Although the issues change in every region, we have asked these workers to talk about price rise, nonpayment of dues to farmers, law and order and growing unemployment,” Haider added.
It seems opposition parties are adopting a similar strategy in other states to challenge the electoral might of the BJP. During the recent assembly elections in Karnataka, the Congress adopted a similar strategy to build a network of polling booth level workers across the state.
The Congress model of polling booth networks included greater involvement of MLAs who were given the task of ensuring victory in not just their own constituency but also a neighbouring constituency. The Congress gave every member of the legislative council responsibility for two legislative assemblies.
The Congress efforts paid off in Karnataka, where it returned to power by winning 135 seats with a vote percentage of 42.88 per cent while the BJP got only 66 seats with 36 per cent of the vote share.
Political analysts believe the technique or concept of managing polling booths to win elections is a recent development in Indian politics but this technique is widely used to reach out to voters in the US.
“It is called ‘precise control voting’ when we make a network of polling booths and try to manage the outcome of voting in our favour. By managing polling booths, political parties not only perform better but can also identify the seats where they are comfortable and constituencies where more work is needed. Since the SP is part of the INDIA alliance and will have to contest most seats against the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the party needs to be electorally prepared for the challenge,” said Ashutosh Kumar, a political science professor at Panjab University.