An enviable army of booth-level volunteers, which had been working on the ground for the last one year in Uttar Pradesh, was one of the major reasons that the mammoth crowds seen at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public meetings and road shows made easy transition into votes, landing the Bharatiya Janata Party a victory of its kind in India’s most populous state.
“Some journalists had been highlighting the fact that we (BJP) lack local faces and local leaders. It was speculated that we would suffer due to this handicap in UP. What they forgot was the fact that our membership drive had been very successful in UP—and across the country—and we had deployed an astonishing number of volunteers per booth,” said a group of BJP district level leaders and cadre who had gathered from across the state at the BJP’s 11 Asoka Road headquarters in New Delhi to celebrate the party’s resounding victory over incumbent Samajwadi Party, which had joined hands with Congress. While the grand old party finished in single digits, both SP and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party fell far short of the 100-mark. The BJP alone won 312 seats of 403.
Ajay Krishna Tripathi, who had been managing BJP’s Varanasi North candidate Ravindra Jaiswal’s election campaign, said the party’s primary strength was its grassroots activists who were able to fully exploit the momentum created by PM Modi.
“Varanasi was a difficult situation until PM Modi came here to campaign. We were afraid we might lose Varanasi South and Varanasi Cantonment, but PM Modi generated an immense crowd, and thanks to our cadre strength, we were 100% successful in securing their votes,” Tripathi told this reporter over the phone from Varanasi.
Shedding light on their booth management strategy, he added: “We had deployed 20 volunteers per polling station. In fact, we had taken printouts of electoral rolls and made a panna pramukh (roll-chief), making him entirely responsible for the 100-125 electorates in his roll. He was given the task to take them to the booth on polling day.” The same strategy was repeated across all towns and villages of Uttar Pardesh, Tripathi claimed. The BJP won all eight seats of Varanasi, including Pindra, Congress’ Ajay Rai’s reportedly impregnable bastion.
In Ghazipur, where the BJP won five of the eight seats, including Mohammadabad where gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s brother Sibakatullah Ansari challenged BJP’s Alka Rai, campaign in-charges said it was the triple factor of “Modi, Manoj Sinha and RSS activism” that worked.
“PM Modi and (BJP president) Amit Shah were big factors. But Manoj Sinha, Telecom Minister and Ghazipur MP, was a factor, too. Roads and electricity were major issues here. All development work started after Sinha won from Ghazipur. So, we were sure there was a general mood in favour of the BJP. The reason we were able to encash on it was that our cadre is very active,” said Manoj Yadav, BJP’s local leader from Ghazipur Sadar. He said the party had not only deployed 12, 15 or even 20 volunteers in every booth, but they had been doing people-to-people contact for over one year. “The outcome was predictable. There was 100% Hindu consolidation,” Yadav revealed without hesitation. He further said that the RSS worked diligently to ensure that the BJP candidates won. “RSS’ support was forthcoming throughout. They worked very hard on the ground. Even in the last 24 hours before polling, after big leaders were gone, it was they who kept the steam alive,” Yadav told The Sunday Guardian over phone.
BJP’s Chanduali unit seconded the view. “There were 98 booths here. We had 15 to 20 workers focusing on each one of them. No other party has such macro-level management,” Gopal Singh, former block level president of the BJP in Mughalsarai, said. “Unlike other parties, we are able to transform a good crowd seen at our leaders’ rallies, be it of PM Modi or of Amit Shah, into actual votes. The credit goes to our highly trained and disciplined cadre,” he added.
Meanwhile, many BJP workers said the Samajwadi Party suffered because of a decline in support from many Muslim women who were drawn to BJP’s positive discourse on triple talaq. “In Varanasi, a good number of Muslim women would have voted for the BJP. But they were not allowed to come out from their houses by their menfolk, who feared they might not vote for the SP. So, there was a drop in the polling percentage of Muslim women. While we did not get their additional votes, the SP too suffered,” Tripathi told this newspaper, recalling that PM Modi had got an overwhelming reception in Muslim dominated localities like Madanpura in Varanasi when he camped in the holy city from 4 to 6 March.