(Photo: PTI)
(Photo: PTI)

Opinion | Will outreach bid, flagship schemes aid BJP’s prospects?

BJP has tried to use its existing members to popularize its flagship programmes

The use of national security and border security, and the engagement of new voters are attempts by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to reach out to a greater audience and upset anti-incumbency sentiment against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

In August 2014, the BJP undertook a nearly three-month enrolment process to increase membership. From 30 million members, the party managed to reach up to 110 million by reaching out to people in different areas. This was its first attempt to cultivate a base of new voters who had traditionally not voted for the BJP.

Increasing membership was also an attempt to reinforce the perception that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a decisive leader and that people were ready to listen to the BJP under his command. The outreach, enrolment and engagement (OEE) model is to ensure that people vote for the BJP in the name of Modi.

To bolster the BJP’s effort to expand its social and electoral base, the party leadership under Modi made a genuine effort to expand its base. The previous perception of the BJP was that it is a party limited to urban centres, which only managed to get a share of votes of traders and upper castes. However, in the last five years, BJP has used government schemes such as Ujjwala which provides subsidized cooking gas, Swachh Bharat which provides access to sanitation, Saubhagya which ensures electricity connections for all, and bank accounts through Jan Dhan, to reach out to financially and socially weaker sections who have not been its traditional voters.

While the extent of the BJP’s success in expanding its electoral base will be seen only in the outcome of the 2019 general elections, the party has tried to use its existing members to popularize its flagship programmes and help people benefit from government schemes. There has been an outreach attempt through the government both at the state and national levels and outside the government with the help of party members. The BJP claims at least 220 million people have benefitted from at least one flagship programme of the government and, as a strategy, party members were sent to the homes of these beneficiaries to ensure they vote for the BJP.

Although people can debate if the strategy has worked or not, what cannot be denied is that there has been an attempt by the BJP to break the traditional voting pattern of the financially and socially weaker sections. Assembly poll results in several states suggest that a section of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) have moved toward the BJP because of the growing electoral footprint of the party. In the last five years, the BJP has managed to be in power in 16 states, the highest ever.

The recent voting pattern in tier II cities also indicates that there is a semi-urban and aspirational voter base that is trying to be heard. Both the Congress and BJP have tried to reach out to this base, but the efforts of the Congress started a bit late when compared with the BJP, which has been targeting this section even before the 2014 general elections. It would be interesting to see the impact of the aspirational voter class on the outcome of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.

Jai Mrug is a Mumbai-based political analyst and director of VMR and M76 Analytics.

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