UP Election 2017: How Narendra Modi and Amit Shah re-engineered BJP grassroots setup and why it's hurting SP, BSP

BJP president Amit Shah is a strong believer in the maxim "in every success there lies the seed of an equivalent disadvantage". Since 2014 Lok Sabha polls which saw an overwhelming victory for his party, Shah has undertaken a massive restructuring of the BJP's Uttar Pradesh organisation to neutralise the foreseeable disadvantage.

Look at the manner in which he initiated those measures which were radical at the ground level. The party's state unit was directed to identify nearly 25 cadres that can be deployed at each of the 1.5 lakh booths spread across the state. And the method adopted was completely at variance with the traditional RSS-inspired sangathanist model.

According to BJP office bearers, cadres for each booths were selected on the basis of the area's demographic composition. The traditional method of choosing only those with Hindutva links was discarded. In most of the cases, young men from varied caste background were roped in and given a sense of purpose through training sessions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah. AFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. File photo. AFP

State-level office-bearers held nearly 100 odd meetings of booth-level workers, from block-level to state headquarters, to keep the party's electoral machinery completely attuned to ground realities. At the same time, Shah himself held meetings with various caste groups and promoted an organic leadership among them. For instance, castes like Rajbhar, Nonia, Nishad and Kunbis were completely co-opted on the promise of providing them greater share in power.

What appears to have gone in favour of the BJP is the impression that not only Modi belongs to the most backward classes but Shah was also seen as representing that section of society. Given the political history of marginalisation of the backward classes by dominant Yadavs and Jats, the new political formulation seems to have found resonance among non-Yadav OBCs. This was the precise reason why an OBC face Keshav Prasad Maurya was brought in as party's state unit chief.

Having made inroads into the OBC social block, the party launched a massive drive to wean away non-jatav scheduled castes in the areas considered to be stronghold of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Since the past experience of non-jatav Dalits was not satisfactory, they seem to have found the BJP's shelter quite reassuring and drifted towards the Hindutva fold. Across the state, Valmikis, Khatiks and Passis were promoted in the mainstream much to the chagrin of BSP chief Mayawati.

In the past two and half year, while the party's organisational restructuring was carried out to keep it in tune with social impulses, the state leadership also focused on developing women and youth as constituencies, said Dr Chandramohan, Uttar Pradesh spokesperson of the party. "Perhaps we have never ever seen such an overhauling in the BJP's organisational structure and spectacular scale of mobilisation," he said.

He cited statistics to bolster the point that the party had undertaken the biggest ever mobilisation in the past six months. "You see we held 88 youth conferences, 77 women conferences, 200 meetings of backward classes (OBCs) besides undertaking four parivartan yatras in the past six months," he pointed out.

Of course, the pressure of the BJP's well-oiled organisational machinery was felt immediately after the first phase of polling was over. It shifted its focus and launched a massive outreach through social media by using WhatsApp and Facebook pages of the UP BJP. Apparently the party's propaganda machinery drummed up the campaign and raised the decibel level to mobilise fence-sitters in successive phases of polling by using all tricks of the trade. Polarisation of the electorate became evident after the first phase.

Contrast this meticulously planned election campaign by the BJP with that of the indifferent and rather dull canvassing by Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati and you would know the difference. Akhilesh believed much on semantics and less on substance while the BSP led by Mayawati seems to be resource-crunched, reeling under the impact of demonetisation.

There are enough indications on the ground that the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance could not enthuse the SP's cadres which was quite demoralised after marginalisation of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav. In fact, the absence of Shivpal, being an organisation man all through his life, made the SP's organisational structure a rudderless ship drifting aimlessly. On the other hand, the Congress is only hoping to ride piggyback on the SP. In certain pockets like Bundelkhand and eastern UP, the BSP's committed cadre and machinery has been putting up stiff resistance to the BJP's resurgence.

Unlike Bihar, where the BJP was given a run for its money by a combination of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav, Akhilesh-Rahul combination evokes derision and ridicule. Despite his high blitz 'kaam bolta hai' campaign, Akhilesh is nowhere close to Nitish Kumar as harbinger of good governance and performer. Similarly, Rahul is hardly seen as serious political contender.

Apparently the party's organisational restructuring can largely be credited to neutralise the disadvantages that the BJP accrued since 2014. It would indeed require a greater in-depth analysis to fully comprehend the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah model of sangathan (organisation) after 11 March when the election results would be announced.

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Updated Date: Feb 27, 2017 08:53:27 IST

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