In this Idea Exchange moderated by Ravish Tiwari of The Indian Express, BJP UP in-charge Amit Shah talks about his winning strategy in Uttar Pradesh, the party’s run-ins with the EC, the CBI cases against him, and why Narendra Modi won.
AMIT SHAH: I have seen several elections. The difference this time is that this election is being fought on an agenda—can a welfare state be created in a multi-party democracy?
RAVISH TIWARI: How did the BJP go about changing its fortunes in Uttar Pradesh?
In UP, there were many challenges for the BJP. First of all, we haven’t been in power for a long time. In the 2009 election, our tally was around 10, and we were roundly beaten in the Assembly. UP’s election preparation started against this background. But the main aim was to raise our agenda above caste. This was a big challenge for us—stopping the local party or caste issue and making the Narendrabhai wave and BJP wave manifest was our biggest challenge. First, we divided UP into 21 clusters, according to their geography and political history. Then we made strategies for every cluster. After that, to convert that into votes and the votes into seats, we made booth committees at 76% of the booths. Then we strengthened the tehsil and zilla units. When Narendrabhai was announced the PM candidate, UP was divided into eight zones, a command area was chosen and we rallied our men and resources in these areas. Every polling booth would have one Bolero that could carry 10 people. We were able to cover around 70% of the booths like this. So connecting Narendrabhai to every booth was a successful exercise. Then, our videos comparing the progress in UP to that of other states were sent to every village in UP.
SUNIL JAIN: Would you say caste is no longer an issue on which elections are going to be fought, but development?
I don’t think the issue of caste will disappear from politics altogether. But we have been successful in showing that elections can be fought on an agenda. Many times, one can get distracted during elections, allegations can be thrown around but, by and large, these elections have been focused on the agenda of development.
ARCHNA SHUKLA: You put up one of the biggest marketing campaigns the country has seen. Was this because you had some apprehension about your chances?
As far as I am concerned, even