New Delhi: The coronavirus pandemic has not stopped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from preparing for the upcoming assembly elections in Bihar and the bypolls in Madhya Pradesh due in October-November and September, respectively.
Although physical rallies seem to remain out of question in the near future in the wake of the Covid outbreak, the altered reality has not deterred the BJP from carrying out its political activities, including preparing for elections.
The BJP has been going on with its business as usual in states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan despite the pandemic.
The Madhya Pradesh BJP unit has planned a virtual rally of Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on 10 June, while the Bihar unit has planned the same with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who will address people through video conference and Facebook live, on 7 June.
“At the panchayat level, where connectivity is an issue, we have decided to set up television screens in a big hall that can cater to at least 40-50 people. At the same time, out of our 72,000 booths, the rally will be live-streamed at 60,000 booths that have internet connectivity,” Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal told ThePrint.
He added that at least for the next two months, the party doesn’t expect physical rallies to start and it will conduct more virtual rallies in the coming days.
According to BJP sources, while Shah’s rally is a BJP affair, joint virtual rallies of leaders of both the JD(U) and BJP have also been planned to showcase the work done by the NDA government in the state.
Apart from Bihar, Shah will address BJP functionaries in West Bengal on 9 June, where elections are due next year.
The Madhya Pradesh unit is also preparing for the bypolls for 24 seats, which are crucial for the stability of the BJP government in the state.
“We are completely geared up for the bypolls and are confident of our victory too. We have lined up a number of virtual rallies of our senior leaders. On 10 June, union minister and senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari will address one such rally,” said Madhya Pradesh BJP president V.D. Sharma.
Apart from Gadkari, Agricultural Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot, among others, are also likely to address virtual rallies in Madhya Pradesh.
But dates of the rallies are yet to be finalised, said a senior BJP leader.
Connecting people via WhatsApp, Facebook
The BJP leader mentioned above said people will be able to connect with the party’s senior leaders and ministers during the virtual rallies.
“We have 1,052 mandals (in MP) and on all these, we have prepared a list of major farmers, social workers, intellectuals, doctors, lawyers and we have got in touch with them already. They will be able to connect through Facebook live and other online mediums,” he added.
According to a senior BJP leader in Madhya Pradesh, at the booth level, all the workers and voters will be connected through WhatsApp by including them in groups.
“At every Vidhan Sabha (in Madhya Pradesh), there will be at least one major virtual rally and the achievements of the Modi government will be highlighted through them,” added the leader.
Concerned over the fact that a section of BJP workers in Madhya Pradesh are miffed as MLAs who joined from the Congress are likely to be given tickets in the bypolls, the BJP has been “reaching out to them”, said the party leader from MP.
According to Sharma: “… these MLAs left their position of power to save the state from the clutches of Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh so it is but natural they will expect to be fielded again. But at the same time, it is the parliamentary board that takes a final decision. We are united and confident of our victory.”
Nukkad meetings to maintain social distancing
Even though the BJP has decided to use virtual rallies to connect with people, a number of party leaders have raised concerns over the fact that many voters are being left out as they don’t have a smartphone.
According to a BJP source, the issue has been flagged and the party is also looking at other alternatives.
“There are a number of regions where (digital) connectivity is not great, so live-streaming becomes an issue. We are identifying all those places and our booth-level workers will personally reach out to those places and inform the people about the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat ’ package announced by the government,” said a second BJP leader.
At the same time, BJP workers have also been told to conduct nukkad meetings with 10 people at a time in an effort to maintain social distancing.
“Rather than the traditional group meetings, we have suggested that they should conduct smaller corner meetings so that maintaining social distancing will not be an issue,” added the leader.
According to Sharma, the Rs 20-lakh crore package announced by the Modi government will be explained to the voters upto the district level.
“We are forming 10 sectoral groups under which relief has been provided by the Modi government whether it is the MSME, vendors or farmers. As far as migrants are concerned, we will also seek suggestions as to where all they can be utilised,” said the second BJP leader.