The BJP's strategy in the upcoming Assembly elections in Tripura is twofold. One is at the macro level, where the turf for the war is the narrative and ideology. The second is at the micro level, where the party aims to do booth management efficiently so as to actually make the voter feel that there is a possibility of a visible difference, which will happen when the party comes to power.
At the macro level, one of the most daunting tasks faced by the party is to convince the voters at large, that a change is possible and voting for someone other than the Left doesn't involve a threat to their lives. The emphasis on change is visible by the slogan given by the BJP, 'chalo-paltai', which means to change the incumbent.
This exercise, it seems is working at certain levels at least, because there have been killings of small booth level workers of the BJP, which the party terms acts of desperation by the CPM. Some villagers at the outskirts of Agartala city, who I had the opportunity to interact with, were afraid that the CPM would check their VVPAT receipts to know who they had voted for. People in the hinterlands are not aware that they don't get the VVPAT receipts to show it to anyone.
More interestingly, this is probably the first time in the history of our country that we are witnessing such an intense battle between the 'Left' and 'Nationalist' ideologies. The BJP for its part hasn't abandoned its ideology, which is visibly manifest in the campaign. In all rallies and contact programs, for instance, the intense chanting of slogans like 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram' is omnipresent. This is also a visible indication of the success of the BJP's strategy at the micro level, which succeeded in penetrating their narrative to the masses.
Also, one gets a sense of comfort that finally an election in our country is being fought on ideological groundings, rather than being on caste and vote bank considerations.
Till now, there has been a popular conception that the Left rule in Tripura is different from its functioning in the other states. The façade, as it seems, is weathering away, especially because of a series of one-sided political murders in the state. The BJP is winning the narrative war because of this.
But, realistically, this might not manifest into an electoral victory for the BJP, because the voters who intend to vote for the BJP might be threatened into submission. The biggest legitimate worry for the BJP is that its supporters may not turn up on the day of voting.
At the micro level, the BJP has implemented its immensely successful strategy of 'panna pramukh'. This means that for every page of the electoral roll, there is an in-charge for the BJP and he or she is responsible to just mark the people who are supporting the party.
This, in turn, helps to streamline the campaign activity in a targeted manner, where households not so favourable to the party are pursued more. However, due to the small size of the population in the state, mass contact programs, like door-to-door campaigns and IVR campaigns etc are also relevant and efficient.
The BJP is aware of its popularity among the youth and is looking to capitalise on the same. I met a party worker, a young engineering graduate, who has in fact given the slogan of 'chalo-palati' and not so surprisingly his parents are staunch supporters of the CPM.
This is a common pattern in most households in the state. The vision document of the BJP has provisions especially targeting this population segment, with promises like distribution of smartphones etc. Though these schemes don't make much economic sense in the larger interest of the country and are no different than similar schemes by the erstwhile Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh and AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu, it makes sense here because of abject underdevelopment and a huge communist background and hangover.
It is also interesting to note here that the BJP election machinery is very flexible and moulds itself as per the specifics of the peculiarities of any state.
Hence, to counter a communist heavyweight, the party has included almost all socialistic benefits in its manifesto. The most basic of which included drinking water and public health. Tripura is one of the worst affected states in terms of Malaria, as on this date. Therefore, health as an electoral concern is hugely pertinent.
The CPM has stuck with its usual election policy and lacks innovation. Their slogan is the usual 'Inquilab Zindabad', which doesn't make any sense if the party itself is the incumbent. 'Inquilab' literally means revolution for a change, which is totally counterproductive when one is seeking a reelection, it literally means demanding a change against itself. Other slogans of the CPM like 'Ēkakabhōṭanā', meaning not a single vote to any other party, sounds more like a threat to the voters rather than a request.
Overall, the BJP's campaign is based on an outlook of a positive change and is aided by the vitiated atmosphere by political killings, whereas the CPM's campaign still lacks any novelty or creativity to impress the voters.
The author tweets @raghavwrong
Updated Date: Feb 14, 2018 13:00 PM