Saffronizing UP

The BJP party had learnt a lesson from Bihar elections where the“Vikas” rhetoric didn’t work in the party’s favour. What hurt the party more than the Grand alliance in Bihar was its complacency. They didn’t want to repeat the same mistake in UP by being complacent after the landslide victory in Lok Sabha elections winning 71 MP seats with a vote share of 42.3%. (much of which can be attributed to the Modi wave).

But before I list reasons which contributed to its grand win in this election let me introduce the man who’s running the show for BJP in UP:-

Sunil Bansal

Party president Amit Shah handpicked Sunil Bansal for the role of General Secretary of UP who previously assisted him in 2014 Lok Sabha elections in UP. Bansal was an activist of the ABVP, RSS’s student outfit – in Rajasthan who later went on to become its national joint organizing secretary.

Bansal who is Shah’s right-hand man learnt the importance of data compilation for electoral purposes, and slowly picked up the caste intricacies of each district in the state. He learnt from Shah the importance of organisational activities that would keep the party cadre busy and perennially connected with the people.

They started their home work long back starting with the panchayathi elections in 2015. Their strategy worked and gave them a overwhelming majority. Let’s look at the strategy which BJP pursued for this election.

Strategy:-

  • The strategy was to focus on the upper castes, non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits, who comprise 55-60% of its population. Bansal had to implement this on the ground, and change the party’s character in the process, by appointing OBC district chiefs and picking up a large share of candidates from this segment of the society. (Consolidation of Hindu votes). It has to change its current image of a largely upper caste party.
  • Energize the organization early and mobilize the party cadre which is mostly unorganized.
  • To get the benefit out of Muslim vote bank split. (They didn’t field a single muslim candidate in order to up their stock among the Hindus)

 

 

 

What did they do in the run up to this election?

  • Improve the party’s poor rural reach: To remedy this BJP fought panchayat elections in 2015, with far more intensity than in the past, contesting around 3000 seats. It won just 350 seats (less than 12% of contested) but the exercise created a invaluable village-level talent pool which earlier was almost absent.
  • Work on the organizational structure of Party in UP: Back in 2014 the organizational structure of party was in shambles, having a presence in less than a fourth of UP’s 1.4 lakh booths, the basic unit of election management. In a period of 2 years through an aggressive membership drive they extended its reach to close to 1.28 lakh booths. Multiply this 1.28 lakh booths by at least 10 members which gives it more than a million active party members.
  • Improve the connect with the populace:The party in the last few months organized 88 youth-centric, 77 women-centric, 200 OBC-centric, 18 Dalit-centric and 14 trader-centric events, and held numerous state, regional and sector-level meetings with booth workers. They mobilized their grass root level infrastructure while competitors were busy fighting internal squabbles and deployed 403 Parivartan Vans to each constituency and also launched a Mann ki Baat campaign that received 34 lakh responses, and organised Parivartan rallies at the end of 2016. They also created four Facebook pages and 6,608 Whatsapp groups.
  • Data crunching and right application of Data: Just like a modern organization they relied on data. To prepare candidates for the elections, they gave each of them micro village and family level data compiled through phone calls and voter surveys. This helps the candidate to understand more about the constituency and shape their campaign in the right way. They organized state of art war room sessions (which I have seen in IT where different teams work upon a big upcoming deal). The poll strategy team is led by a team of young men who previously worked for Poll strategist Prashanth Kishor who ironically is working with congress in this election.
  • They involved the top leadership in campaigning from Day 1. (Unlike in Bihar in UP most of the leaders were involved from the beginning and in some places days ahead of the election time)
  • Crack the caste code of UP: Dalits constitute 20 per cent of the state’s population and their vote still seems to be intact with BSP. Muslims (17 per cent) and Yadavs (nine per cent) are with SP. Along with the Jats, SP has the backing of over 40 per cent of UP’s voting population. BJP is eyeing the balance 40 per cent, comprising Thakurs, Brahmins, Bhumihars, Kurmis and some OBCs.
  • In order to appeal to all the Hindus they decided to shed their image of a largelynupper caste party. They are claiming that more than 40% of the party’s mid and low level functionaries in UP are now consisting of OBCs and SCs (earlier the figure was 10%). They worked on district wise social combinations and accordingly fielded candidates from each category.

Of the first 370 seats declared they reached a social mix which they felt is optimal: Thakurs 64, Brahmins 63 and more than 40% to non yadav OBC and MBC. Most of the non yadav BCs were disgruntled after the bias shown by SP government in jobs and contracts issued in the last few years. BJP’s target is to consolidate all the non yadav BCs.

  • Upper caste in UP now constitute 24 per cent of the state’s population and at 13% Brahmins are a key constituency. BJP’s Brahmin vote share has shrunk from 50 per cent in 2002 to 44 per cent in 2007 and 38 per cent in 2012. In order to win a close election BJP desperately need their support which only seems to be growing each day. Brijesh Pathak, a influential Brahmin leader joined BJP which definitely is a major boost ahead of the polls.

 

 

  • Appointment of Keshav Prasad Maurya as BJP UP’s President: He’s a Khushwaha and his appointment will boost the party’s outreach among the non-Yadav backward castes in the State. Also his appointment will allow them to nominate a forward caste candidate as CM (most likely a Brahmin since the current outgoing Party president is a brahmin).
  • Building ties and forming alliances with caste leaders: Regional partiesBSP (party which represent Rajbhar community which constitutes about 18 per cent of the eastern UP population) and Anupriya Patel’s Apna Dal (Kurmi caste)
  • Tickets to turncoats in Constituencies which BJP never won
    • When they realized that in more than 150 constituencies they don’t have decent candidates they went for the inorganic growth. The party identified that the party is extremely weak in around 75 constituencies of which BJP never won in 67. (Districts which have high % of yadavs and muslims, or Dalits and Muslims which usually is the core base of SP and BSP).
    • In those 75 constituencies they have given tickets to turncoats who did not contest the elections on a BJP ticket in the past. Of the 75 38 are former or current MLAs from the BSP, 14 are former or current Congress MLAs, 8 from SP and 7 from the RLD. BJP gave preference to winnability of the candidates over loyalty in those weak constituencies. Such decisions were based on a series of four surveys conducted by the BJP in every constituency some of which were carried out by RSS functionary in the areas.
  • They have fielded most of the turncoats (mostly incumbents from SP, BSP or Congress) in those weak constituencies. For example they fielded imports Dharam Singh Saini (Nakur), Mahaveer Rana (Behat) and Pradeep Choudhari (Gangoh) who are incumbents from BSP and Congress in their respective constituencies which BJP has never won before.
  • The party also welcomed top leaders from BSP like Brijesh Pathak, ex-aide of Mayawati who in past helped her party to gain votes of Brahmins. Most of the leaders from non yadav OBCs and MBCs are defecting to BJP from BSP fearing their position in BSP. Seat allocation was solely based on winnabilitywhich is why around 80 imports were given seats ahead of the staunch party workers.

 

 

In a nutshell following factors contributed to their big win in UP:-

  • Anti incumbency: UP people who voted for SP expected Jr Yadav to be a better CM failed to deliver on important things like Jobs and Law and Order.
  • Modi factor: People who gave power to SP and BSP in the last few elections wanted to give Modi a chance who isn’t facing any serious corruption allegations in the first half of his 5 years.
  • The strategy of consolidating Hindu votes (they cracked the caste code)
  • Contribution of RSS workers on the ground
  • De monetization did add some political mileage to the party (though there’s some controversy over the economic benefit). 
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