While campaign strategies and speeches are traceable through the television screens and newspaper columns, it's not so public as to how, and on what scale the saffron party runs its door to door campaign.
Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA has been on a stellar run since 2014, winning back to back elections. With Amit Shah as party president and Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, the BJP has gained power in as many as 20 states. These victories have largely been attributed to PM Modi’s popularity, however, it is an undeniable fact that Amit Shah’s strategy in setting the tone for the campaign and effective booth management have played an equally vital role in the party’s electoral successes. So much so, that booth-level campaign success now pivots the entire election strategy of the saffron party. No wonder then that for the upcoming elections, Modi has given the slogan of “Mera booth, Sabse majboot” – something he doesn’t miss to chant before “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” at every public rally he addresses.
What is booth-level management?
While campaign strategies and speeches are can easily be traced through television broadcasts and newspaper columns, the scale at which the saffron party runs its door-to-door campaign is not publically available as of now. To give you a general understanding, booth level committees are the lowest in the party hierarchy. The booth is the polling center designated for in a particular constituency. The number of voters per booth differ from state to state and from constituency to constituency depending upon the population. However, in states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, one booth caters to around 500-1500 voters.
How do booth level committees work?
An average booth level committee of the party consists of 20 members known as Panna Prabharis, and 1 chief, known as booth ‘prabhari’. Every person has around 50 voters assigned to him, i.e., 5 households in general. The Panna prabhari is tasked to convince these voters in BJP’s favour during the campaign. The booth-level workers continue their services before and after the elections, every person is assigned a particular task for every event, big or small. This may include the arrangement of vehicles to bring the voters to the booth from his/her residence, arranging snacks for party workers, or arrangement of table and chairs outside polling stations.
Every booth Prabhari reports to a sector Prabhari who in turn reports to Mandal Prabhari. Speaking to Financialexpress.com, Manoj Sharma, who served as sector Prabhari in the last UP Assembly elections, said that Amit Shah and Modi have unprecedently focussed on strengthening the booth level-organisation in the party. Sharma says that the party chief himself holds a meeting of booth-level workers from time to time to take stock of the actual situation.
“Every politician, be it an MP or Cabinet Minister, has a responsibility to look after one sector… Amit Shah himself meets the booth-level workers and gets updates about the campaign,” Sharma, who is a former member of BJP’s National Executive for Human Right Cell said.
The units start working way before the elections to assess the party’s position o the ground. For example, in the 2017 UP Assembly Elections, the party had carried out surveys at around 1.21 lakh booths across 403 constituencies of the state and submitted the findings before 21 October. These local units run by grassroot-level workers were encouraged by tours of party’s star pracharaks. The findings of the surveys are kept secret and the election campaign strategy is designed in accordance.
The success of booth-level exercises has been acknowledged in the Opposition quarters with Congress now reportedly trying to replicate BJP’s strategy in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan, the party is running a ‘Booth Shakti’ campaign. The party workers at grassroot level are registering voters’ contact numbers under the campaign, and the voters, in return are getting the speeches and information about leaders like Sachin Pilot and Rahul Gandhi.