How BJPs revised one-on-one strategy made them win UP again
The BJP has won a massive mandate in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Photo: Twitter

How BJP's revised one-on-one strategy made them win UP again

The BJP has won a massive mandate in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. The numbers show that the party had won a clear majority by the fifth phase of polling itself. The 69 seats won by the BJP in the last two phases added to the size of the victory.

A section of analysts clearly failed to see this strong pro-BJP wave across the state. For instance, in Western Uttar Pradesh, where the ‘angry’ Jat farmers were reported to be completely behind Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), surely were not completely disillusioned with the BJP. Of the 113 seats that went to polls in the first two phases, the BJP won 77. On the contrary, the RLD which contested 33 seats, won just eight.

However, of the 12 seats in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Baghpat — the three districts that directly participated in the farmers’ protest, the BJP could win only four. The RLD lost the Baraut seat in Baghpat by fewer than 1,000 votes. An observer wittingly summed up the situation on social media: “Jayant ka utna hi saath diya Jaton ne, Jitna ke Ukrain ka diya NATO ne.”

BJP won every single seat in 24 of UP’s 75 districts across regions, including districts such as Agra, Ghaziabad, Gautama Buddha Nagar, Aligarh, Mathura, Pilibhit and Lakhimpur Khiri where Jat and farmer ‘disenchantment’ was expected to damage the BJP’s prospects.

In his address to BJP workers after the victory, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accurately mentioned that the “silent vote of women and youth” was largely responsible for the party’s landslide victory. The new MY formula of Mahila-Youth base by the BJP seems to have trounced the Muslim-Yadav formula perfected by the Samajwadi Party over the years.

According to a researcher stationed in rural Rae Bareli, the BJP has fundamentally changed the way elections are contested.

“The now-defunct model evolved over a period of time involved leaders working with the opinion makers – village pradhans, religious leaders and influential elders to help them win support. The BJP has made the model redundant by working directly with each voter establishing a one-to-one relationship,” he said, seeking anonymity.

The researcher pointed to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections saying it was then the BJP began putting in place the new model of campaigning. Then UP in-charge Amit Shah started the “Har booth, dus youth” (each booth, 10 youth) model.

Under this plan, the BJP set a target for every worker to visit and nurture at least 20 houses. Added to this is the ‘panna pracharak’ responsible for the 50 names appearing on each page of the electoral roll. In every election from 2014 onwards, the panna pracharaks have anonymously established contact with these 20 families ensuring that every single vote in their families is cast in favour of the saffron party. No other political party has such a well-oiled machinery that micro manages every single vote.

The restrictions on huge public rallies mid-way through the campaign proved to be yet another boon for the saffron party as it has the strongest digital presence.

The BJP’s incomparable social media machinery ran an aggressive campaign targeting primarily the youth. Targeted WhatsApp groups according to caste, age, and geographical locations as well as focused Twitter and Facebook posts put it way ahead of its competitors.

Interestingly, the three consecutive waves of COVID-19 also provided BJP ‘aapda mein avsar’ (opportunity in disaster). In the name of Covid, the ruling BJP government extended a number of welfare schemes in UP. The party also ensured through ground-level communication that the schemes were well publicised with the Prime Minister himself reaching out to beneficiaries to find out how effective the schemes were.

The saffron party has systematically nurtured this newfound constituency of beneficiaries, mostly women from the marginalised Dalit, OBC and even Muslim families, bringing rich political dividends to the BJP.

This year besides 10-kg free foodgrains, the BJP government distributed packets of salt, pulses and edible oil with images of PM Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to 15 crore beneficiaries in the state. The scheme, the government said, will continue till Holi, spanning over the election process.

The BJP government distributed packets of salt, pulses and edible oil with images of PM Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to 15 crore beneficiaries in the state. Photo: Twitter

During one of his election meetings, PM Narendra Modi urged voters to prove their “salt loyalty”. On the occasion of the first-ever distribution of salt as part of the free ration scheme in Hardoi, Modi said: “I know that in villages people are talking of the BJP government’s free ration scheme and saying ‘humne Modi ka namak khay hai, hum Modi ko dhooka nahi denge (we have eaten Modi’s salt, we won’t ditch Modi).”

Added to this is the 10 instalments worth Rs 2,000 each under the Kisan Samman Nidhi already paid to crores of farmers, two crore houses under the Prime Minister Awas Yojana and eight crore free cylinders under the Ujjwala Yojana.

The booth-level BJP worker has a ready list of beneficiaries in his area who he constantly reminds of ‘payback time’. The BJP made people feel obliged to vote for the party to repay for its ‘namak’.

A weak opposition also helped the BJP write its victory script. The top leadership of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party abdicated their role as opposition leaders staying more active on Twitter than on the ground during the last five years.

While the BSP is sadly no longer a force in UP politics after this election, the SP, RLD and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) alliance which has won a combined vote share of 36 per cent and 125 seats has been given a huge responsibility to keep the ruling BJP on its toes.

There are some more positives. A record number of 36 Muslim MLAs have been elected this time compared to barely 25 in 2017. This includes the father-son duo of Mohammad Azam Khan and Abdullah Azam from Rampur who remained behind bars for most of the last term on various cooked up charges.

While mafia don-turned politician Mukhtar Ansari languishing in jail since 2005 did not contest, his son Abbas Ansari won his seat of Mau on an SBSP ticket, an ally of the SP.

The most heartening, however, is the convincing defeat of key Hindutva poster boys responsible for the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. Sitting MLA from Sardhna in Meerut Sangeet Som lost as did state Cabinet minister Suresh Rana from Thanabhawan in Shamli, Umesh Malik from Budhana in Muzaffarnagar and the Mriganka Singh, daughter of late Hukum Singh, from Kairana.

Nahid Hasan’s victory from Kairana is significant. He had retained his seat even during the BJP tsunami in 2017. Hasan was arrested by the Yogi government under the Gangster Act and has been repeatedly denied bail. Union Home Minister Amit Shah started the 2022 UP campaign from this seat along with CM Yogi going door to door distributing pamphlets and addressing meetings reviving the Kairana exodus narrative and projecting Hasan as a gangster. Both these charges were ably countered by Nahid’s sister Iqra Hasan who single-handedly ran the campaign on behalf of the incarcerated brother.

According to Nakul Singh Sawhney, a documentary filmmaker who made Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai on the 2013 riots, “The only moral of the story is that genuine people’s movements’ on people’s issues can reverse polarising trends too… Launching yourself just four months before an election and hoping some clever social engineering will sail you through isn’t enough”.

(Shahira Naim is a senior Lucknow-based journalist.) 

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the article are of the author and do not reflect the views of The Federal.)

Read More
Next Story