NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday urged young people to come out in record numbers to vote, the latest attempt by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to reach out to the 15 million first-time voters in the general elections.
“Requesting all those voting in today’s fifth phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to do so in large numbers. A vote is the most effective way to enrich our democracy and contribute to India’s better future. I hope my young friends turn out in record numbers," Modi tweeted.
Senior BJP leaders said the party has been trying to increase its voter base in the past five years, and targeting the first-time voters is a step in that direction.
“Since 1998 general elections, BJP’s vote percentage share consistently went down till the 2014 general elections when the party managed to get 31% votes. We have realised that we should look at new areas and people to increase our voter base," said a senior BJP leader aware of the strategy.
BJP members point out that while targeting the first-time voters, senior leaders of the party had identified states and Lok Sabha constituencies where the BJP has not performed well for a long time. At a meeting held after the 2014 general elections, leaders identified 165 Lok Sabha seats in six states where the BJP does not play a dominant role both at the state and national level.
“Most of the 165 seats identified by the BJP were in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Odisha. The BJP had won just seven of these 165 constituencies. We are confident that BJP will perform well in these states and some of the states could become the new areas of growth for BJP," the party leader added.
To further consolidate its position and increase its voter base, BJP leaders have also identified the beneficiaries of different government schemes who have received direct benefits in the last five years. At the beginning of the 2019 campaign, the BJP leadership indentified at least 320 million people as having benefitted from one or more government programmes. Of them, there are at least 220 million who have benefitted from at least one government scheme.
“A 10-member team of senior leaders was formed by the party in February this year who were tasked to work with state units of BJP and reach out to these 22 crore (220 million) beneficiaries. The idea was to convince the people who were mainly from financially and socially weaker sections to vote for BJP," added the BJP leader.
Some of the vote-grabbing schemes in the party’s calculations are the Ujjwala scheme of providing subsidized cooking gas cylinders, Ayushman Bharat which will provide health for all, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to provide housing for all, and Swachh Bharat Mission to provide toilets for all.
“The recently announced PM-Kisan scheme will benefit at least 12 crore (120 million) small and marginal farmers who have less that 5 acres of land. The scheme will provide ₹6,000 to these farmers annually and so far at least 4 crore (40 million) people have already benefitted from the scheme," said the BJP leader.
Political analysts feel the BJP has planned the election better compared to the Congress or other anti-BJP alliances that have come up in some states.
“BJP has planned this election. The party leadership had realized that 31% votes may not be enough to return to power in 2019 general elections, so they started planning the election well in advance. BJP leaders believe that beneficiaries of government schemes could be their new voters and nationalism or action against terrorist bases either through surgical strikes or Balakot air strikes would also attract voters to the BJP," said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a New Delhi-based political analyst who is also associated with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies.