New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be the face on the BJP’s posters for the Delhi elections, but Union Home Minister Amit Shah has replaced him as the chief campaigner.
In three days since the campaign for the 8 February elections intensified, Shah has been part of 11 poll-related programmes, including a public meeting and a nukkad sabha (street-corner meeting), among others.
He is set to address two more nukkad sabhas Monday, in the Rithala and Janakpuri constituencies. Sources in the BJP say the former party chief will take part in at least three or four more nukkad sabhas and roadshows in the next few days.
PM Modi, meanwhile, is likely to hold just one more rally — which is set to be organised in an unauthorised colony that his government has recently regularised. But his face remains the central focus of the BJP’s campaign, with billboards bearing slogans like ‘Desh badla ab Delhi badlo’ (Changed the country, now change Delhi) and ‘Delhi chale Modi ke saath’ (Delhi walks with Modi).
The focus of Shah’s campaign has been on national issues, such as the scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, Triple Talaq, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and others.
For instance, at a meeting Sunday in Babarpur, Shah said when the Modi government decided to grant citizenship to persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal and Congress’ Rahul Gandhi opposed it.
“These two have created riots by misleading the youth and minorities. They indulge in vote bank politics, create riots and stand with the people of Shaheen Bagh,” he said.
Shah also asked Delhiites to press the button on the voting machine with such force that its current is felt at Shaheen Bagh.
“The big difference in BJP’s campaign style is that earlier, PM Modi alone used to take charge of state elections. Since (the Lok Sabha polls in) 2019, it is Amit Shah who is sharing the burden. Or, one could say, Shah is at the forefront of mobilising voters and projecting himself as another mass leader for the party,” said Rahul Verma, fellow at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR).
“Shah took the lead in Parliament and outside, defending the Modi government’s decisions on the core ideological agenda of the BJP, be it Article 370 or the CAA. Given the popularity of the AAP government in Delhi, the BJP would like to turn this election into a referendum on its ideological projects. That’s the only way it can counter AAP,” Verma said.
Picking up the pace
The BJP campaign is gaining momentum — it conducted 343 public meetings on 25 January and 250 on 26 January.
With the budget session of Parliament starting on 31 January, all ministers and BJP MPs will be in town, and the Delhi unit is set to make them part of the campaign.
“For the budget session, all the ministers, MPs and other senior leaders will be in Delhi. They will also campaign for the candidates. We are now starting rallies and corner meetings by BJP chief ministers. Party president J.P. Nadda is also likely to hold several meetings,” said a senior BJP leader.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari said the party has set a target of holding 15,000 small-scale meetings and programmes during the campaign.
“The idea is to have a dialogue with the people and answer their queries. This is the reason we have not opted for traditional rallies but are conducting smaller ones. This ensures that we are able to understand the concerns of the people too,” Tiwari told ThePrint.
The BJP’s strategy is in direct contrast with the AAP, for which CM Kejriwal has been holding five jan sabhas, rallies and roadshows every day. “He has done around 40 such programmes so far,” said an AAP functionary.
However, another BJP leader expressed confidence that this new strategy would break its 22-year win-less streak in the national capital.
“Since 1998, this looks like our best bet to come to power, contrary to what is being projected by AAP. Earlier, Sheila Dikshit governed for 15 years, leaving little scope for the BJP to come to power. And then, we had a political start-up in the AAP. People wanted to give AAP an opportunity and they have done that. They are not going to waste their vote this time. With BJP at the Centre we are confident of winning,” this leader said.