What an election it has been! More than 310 seats for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Did anyone even dream of this scenario? These once-in-a-generation results in the just concluded assembly elections for five states, and more specifically UP, have established what can be described as a new normal in Indian politics. That new normal is this: The BJP under the historic leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi and the organisational master-class of Amit Shah has established itself as the preeminent political party of India—the party that caters to the aspirations of every section of Indians.
While each state election is of equal importance, the results in UP have a special significance, if for no other reason than the sheer legislative numbers the state brings to the national polity—80 seats in Lok Sabha, 31 seats in the Rajya Sabha and an important say in determining the presidential elections. But, what is it that the BJP did in UP that has coloured the state so completely saffron? After all, remember that even at the peak of the Ram Mandir movement, the state did not vote this decisively and with this consistency for the BJP. Is there something about the BJP’s UP model that can act as a template?
Essentially, the BJP’s UP model can be described as the Panchva Tatva Model—a perfect pentagon where each arm worked in harmony with the others and delivered a model worthy of emulation.
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The first tatva of this arm is the most obvious—the charisma of Narendra Modi. How else can one describe the phenomenon where just months before an election result, a leader says that unlike others, I will not take a populist decision but I will demonetise 86% of India’s currency which will inconvenience you, and yet the people vote for him like they have never voted before for anyone? UP has also established, in some senses emphatically, what people most like about Modi—his decisiveness when it comes to national interest. Be it driving his team extra hard, round-the-clock, to delivering almost 2 crore LPG connections in less than a year, to delivering a body blow to the cancer of black money in India or in establishing a new benchmark, through the surgical strikes, in how India will respond to terror attacks—Modi has shown he is decisive when it comes to Indian interests.
The response that Modi drew in Varanasi, where he campaigned for three straight days, only reinforced this aspect—that for Modi there is never a backseat and he is not a general who will leave his troops to battle while himself hiding in the safety of the barracks. Modi, instead, is a general who leads from the front.
The second tatva is the organisational genius of Amit Shah and his ability to identify talent. He established this in 2014 when he was in charge of the state. In 2017, as national president of BJP, he has shown that not only has he cemented his past success model but also that he learns from every experience. Within the span of less than three years since 2014, more than 12 lakh new members were added to the BJP, thereby increasing its social base across the state. But Shah’s lasting contribution to the BJP’s election machinery must be establishing the importance of booth management. Before Shah was sent to UP in 2013, booth committees as the driving force of micro management was a concept still to take hold in the UP BJP.
By the 2014 elections, under him, the BJP had booth committees in 37% of the critical booths. This number increased to 87% by 2017. In addition, the entire state was divided into 82 district units, 1,463 mandals and 9,933 sectors. Having already established the concept of Panna Pramukhs at booth level, this time Shah introduced another innovation—booth rakshaks. Their job—to act as protectors of the booth in every aspect. From ensuring that planned campaigning happens at their booths to reporting feedback to senior leadership, the booth rakshaks owned the booths with heart and mind.
The third tatva of the BJP’s machinery is the local organisational structure. This meant on the one hand that out of the 403 constituencies, there was not even a single constituency which was not touched by at least two major star campaigners and on the other ensuring that the entire state party leadership worked as one. The first was achieved by the brilliantly crafted Parivartan Yatras. The yatra touched every nook and corner of the state, helped mobilise the cadre, and establish mass contact right at the grass roots level. And how did the BJP achieve the second—ironically, by not declaring a CM candidate. In this respect, UP has actually demolished the construct that one cannot win a big state without a predeclared face. Indeed, the BJP has established that in a state where there are many claimants for the top position, all of whom have come up the ranks by a democratic process and not through dynastic succession, not declaring a face helps. It worked in Maharashtra, and Haryana earlier, and now has worked so demonstrably in UP as well.
The fourth tatva is complementing this ground work by an overarching vision. The manifesto the BJP released was not only comprehensive and forward-looking, but as with all things BJP, under this new leadership, it was designed and presented in an attractive manner as well. It was no longer a dreary boring document that had to be released just to complete the paperwork. Instead, top brains of the party, in Lucknow and in Delhi, went into first drafting it and then designing and presenting it. And as has been the new norm in the BJP, inputs were also invited from the people of UP, and more than 30 lakh inputs were received.
The fifth and last tatva of the BJP model has perhaps been its most potent and with the most long-term appeal—it has established a “class” of BJP voters when all others were vying for caste voters or voters on the basis of religion. The BJP’s appeal was simple—if you are looking for a better future for yourself and your children, then as a class, vote for us, irrespective of the caste, sub-region or religion you belong to. The local leadership line of the party established this class model as well—from Rajnath Singh to Kalraj Mishra to Keshav Prasad Maurya to Yogi Adityanath. Between them, they represented the widest swathe of the state’s population.
If 2014 started the era of Modi, then after this round of election results, it can be stated without a doubt that the era has not only just begun but that it has a long and glorious future, not just for the BJP but for the country as well.
The author is spokesperson, BJP