The Lok Sabha elections may be nearly two years away, but BJP president Amit Shah has already started preparing for them, adopting his successful panna pramukh (chief of the voters’ list) strategy. The panna pramkuh strategy is about reaching out to every voter at the level of the electoral booth, the smallest unit of every Lok Sabha or Assembly seat. As per the strategy, a member of the party’s booth committee is given a page, called panna in Hindi, of the voters’ list, which comprises 70-80 voters. The panna pramukh is supposed to focus on the voters on his/her panna and woo them to vote for the BJP. The strategy was adopted during the UP Assembly elections and also the municipal elections in Delhi, which yielded spectacular results.

According to party sources, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s continued popularity has not made Amit Shah complacent. He is visiting different parts of the country and energising the cadre at the grassroots. He is giving a special push to the strategy by organising separate meetings of panna pramukhs.

Shah has visited states such as Odisha, West Bengal, Goa, Puducherry, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Lakshadweep, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir in the last two months after the BJP’s national executive meeting was held in Bhubaneswar in April. Shah will continue to tour the country until the end of September.

Talking about the panna pramukh strategy, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said it was core to the party’s electoral strategy and the party president was giving a lot of stress to it. “It is the best possible strategy to reach out to each and every voter, which is being implemented by the party, under the leadership of Amit Shah,” he told The Sunday Guardian.

He said that the strategy, which is being implemented under the “Vistarak Yojana”, is aimed at targeting the individual voter, which is the basic unit of the electioneering process. “The way Amit Shah is implementing it, shows how hard he is working to strengthen the organisation. Wherever he goes, he makes it a point to meet the panna pramukhs. This has resulted in energising the cadre at the grassroots,” he added.

According to a BJP source, Shah is also closely monitoring the state units and taking corrective measures wherever required. In Jharkhand, for example, soon after getting the feedback that there was unrest among the tribal population of the state, following amendments in the state’s tenancy acts, he sent Ram Madhav to salvage the situation. Following Madhav’s visit, the amendments were returned by the Governor. The tribals were protesting against the amendments.

States such as Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will hold Assembly elections later this year and Shah is trying to ensure that the party organisation is in place well in advance. In Karnataka, the BJP has already declared B.S. Yeddyurappa as the state unit president and also the Chief Ministerial candidate. Karnataka is going for Assembly elections next year.

The decision to reach out to the grassroots was taken in the Bhubaneswar meeting. As part of the plan, all working committee members were asked to devote at least 15 days each in until the elections in 2019 to interact with party workers at the booth level. Accordingly, a roster is being drawn up by the party.

The party has also identified 600 workers, who will stay and work for 15 days each in all the Lok Sabha constituencies, focusing on booth level work, until the 2019 elections. This list of 600 people was drawn up from 3.5 lakh workers who volunteered to do the job. Another 4,000 have volunteered to stay in the constituencies for six months to one year at a stretch.

The BJP feels that despite its best efforts, in 2019 it may lose some seats in the northern and western states, where it had performed very well in 2014, and therefore it is necessary to focus on states such as Odisha, West Bengal, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, etc., where it has not been able to make a dent so far. “The possible losses in traditional BJP strongholds should be compensated by gains in newer areas. That will be the key for the BJP to come to power in 2019. Though the party is in a comfortable position at present, we cannot remain slack. Therefore, we are targeting every booth, by organising meetings of panna pramukhs,” the BJP source said.

He said in states where some regional parties are in power, the attempt will be to push the Congress to the periphery. That way, BJP seeks an opportunity to grow in West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and also in the Northeast. At the same time, it will try to retain the maximum seats in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Shah is also scrutinising booth-wise segregation of the party’s over 10 crore members. He has asked the party workers to get this process completed well in advance.

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