New book reveals Modi’s early lessons in poll strategy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. | Photo Credit: PTI

The political temperature in Gujarat is going up by the day with Assembly election due later this year. The BJP is seeking to maintain its dominance in the home State of not just Prime Minister Narendra Modi but also Union Home Minister Amit Shah. While for many years, Mr. Shah has been seen as the man looking after the nuts and bolts of the impressive electoral machinery of the BJP, some of it is from a playbook Mr. Modi set in place in the late 1980s and 1990s.

In the recently released book Modi@20: Dreams Meet Delivery (BlueKraft Digital), Mr. Shah’s essay describing his association with the Prime Minister from more than three decades ago has some interesting nuggets with regard to how the party did a creeping acquisition of electoral support in the State, working to a plan set out by Mr. Modi, who was general secretary (organisation) in the State unit then.

After having launched in 1988 a Sanghathan Parva, or enrolment drive, for the BJP, with proper registers of enrolments, Mr. Shah says he undertook two long tours of the State accompanying Mr. Modi.

“One piece of advice particularly stayed with me. Narendra Bhai told us every village was likely to have had two major candidates in the preceding sarpanch election. The winner would invariably be from the Congress or the Janata Dal, the two leading parties in Gujarat at the time. The loser would be sidelined and forgotten. Modi asked us to target the runner-up as part of the party membership drive,” Mr. Shah writes.

“The rationale was laser sharp. The loser in the sarpanch contest, he said, would have 30-40 per cent of the vote. This was not enough to win, but still estimable. Modi asked us to approach all such persons and invite them into the BJP with dignity and after an honest conversation about our party’s position and philosophies. If the match worked, it added a sizeable number of voters, at the village level to our existing core. It also gave us a notable micro-level leader of some influence,” he adds.

Electoral competitiveness had to go together with the expansion of the party. For parties hoping to make inroads in hostile political territory, this sounds like a plan that may be replicable.

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Printable version | May 13, 2022 7:36:44 pm |