Assembly Election 2018 results may force Amit Shah to change his electoral strategy

The BJP is in the need of a serious rethink.

 |  6-minute read |   12-12-2018
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The outcomes of the Legislative Assembly elections of five states show that the BJP government is getting farewell from three crucial states – ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. After the election results, BJP chief ministers will now rule in just 12 states, and the BJP and its allies together will rule in 16 states.

The BJP’s lackadaisical performance not only puts a major break on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and BJP President Amit Shah’s "Congress-mukt" campaign, but also poses a huge question mark on their election strategy.

modi-clap-copy_121118090828.jpgWill 2018 Assembly polls prove to be a wakeup call for the BJP. (Photo: PTI)

Due to the BJP’s winning spree in several assembly elections, Amit Shah had earned the name of "Chanakya of BJP". But this is the first election when the power has slipped from the BJP’s hand in three major states at one go. Political analysts say that Amit Shah's election strategy has failed in these three politically important states.

Until these elections, Amit Shah was popularly called as BJP’s "election-winning machine". However, the blip in Amit Shah’s winning strategy had started becoming apparent in Gujarat Assembly elections itself that were held in December last year.  And now, the Assembly election results just reinforce this assertion.

It will now be imperative for Amit Shah to shed his arrogance and bring about a change in his electoral strategy.

amit-shah-copy_121118083956.jpegUntil these elections, Amit Shah was popularly called as BJP’s 'election-winning machine'. (Photo: PTI)

Keeping Muslims at bay and confidence on outsiders 

Bharatiya Janata Party’s strategy of keeping itself away from the Muslim community in these three states has cost it dearly. Harping on its “Minus Muslim” formula, the BJP had fielded just one Muslim candidate in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan while the Congress gave tickets to multiple Muslim candidates in both the states.

For this reason, the Muslim voters were inclined towards the Congress, which not only helped the party increase its vote percentage but also increased its seat share. Apart from this, Amit Shah relied heavily on outsiders. As such, those leaders who came to the BJP from other parties were given more consideration and weight as compared to the old loyalists of the party. They were given tickets to contest but Shah's formula could not prove to be effective.

indian-muslim-copy_121118085853.jpgBJP's decision to push the muslim voter away appears to have backfired. (Photo: PTI)

Bypassing old faces 

BJP denied tickets to almost 20-30 per cent of its sitting MLAs in all the three states and many of those denied tickets were the ministers. Instead, the party gave importance to new and young faces. It is because of this, the BJP had to face more rebels in the elections. In many seats, the rebels have spoiled the BJP's game, whereas on many seats it lost due to internal dissensions. Amit Shah's Gujarat model of ticket distribution boomeranged this time.

Booth level and ‘Panna pramukh’ deployment 

This has been Amit Shah’s notable electoral strategy. His focus has been on organising booth level workers in every state and deployment of "panna pramukh" to influence voters.  This plan was perfected in several Gujarat assembly elections and earned good dividends to the party in the recent assembly elections in the country.

The strategy entails giving responsibility to each prabhari for a panna – which literally means a page, but in this case, referred to a page in the electoral rolls. Each page in the voters’ list has the names of between 8 to 12 families. Every panna prabhari (also called a panna pramukh) is required to focus on these families.

Shah has said in several meetings that he has a long army of "social media warriors" who would ensure the victory of the BJP. The BJP has been using the social media to attack the Congress. But in these elections, this strategy could not achieve any significant success.

Betting on Hindutva and Ram temple issues

Like every election, this time also BJP tried to push its Hindutva agenda just before the elections and invoked the Ram temple issue. Both, Amit Shah and PM Narendra Modi accused Congress of trying to act as an impediment in the construction of the temple.

It also accused the Congress of stalling the case in the Supreme Court. Sangh Parivar and sadhus-saints also tried to raise the issue of Ram Mandir before elections, but the strategy could not prove successful to convert it into votes as it did in 1990s elections. In fact, the angst of Hindus against the BJP on the issue of Ram temple has only been exacerbated.

babri-copy_121118085914.jpgBJP did not give much priority to development issues that helped it to come to power in 2014. (Photo: PTI)

Ordinance on SC / ST Act

Before the elections in five states, the central government led by the BJP had formulated a strategy to mobilise Dalit voters by bringing an Ordinance against the Supreme Court’s decision on the SC/ST Act. But the party’s strategy fell flat on its face. On the flip side, it brought about resentment amongst the upper caste voter, which is BJP's core base.

In addition to this self-defeating strategy of the BJP, it did not give much priority to development issues that helped it to come to power in 2014. The party’s star campaigners incessantly attacked Congress’s 60 years rule, focussed much on the Nehru-Gandhi family, and referred Sonia Gandhi as a widow of the Congress party, while the Congress President Rahul Gandhi continued to attack Modi government on its governance.

He attacked the present dispensation on agricultural distress, farmer’s suicide, Rafale deal, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi, GST, farmers' debt and loan waiver. This seems to have struck chord a right chord with the common men and paid dividends to the Congress.

Also read: Rajasthan election results: Sachin Pilot faces spirited challenge in Tonk


Praveen Shekhar Praveen Shekhar

The writer is Associate Producer, TVTN.

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