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HomePoliticsJharkhand defeat ends Om Mathur’s unbroken streak as BJP’s top election manager

Jharkhand defeat ends Om Mathur’s unbroken streak as BJP’s top election manager

Om Mathur, former Rajasthan BJP president, is an old RSS hand and considered close to PM Modi. He had led the party to wins in Gujarat, Maharashtra & MP.

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New Delhi: The BJP’s poll debacle in Jharkhand has put an end to the hitherto unblemished record of one of its most successful election managers, Om Mathur.

Mathur is a confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi — they first met in the 1970s and worked together for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP in the subsequent decades. He was known in party circles as the man with the Midas touch when it came to managing elections— from dislodging Digvijaya Singh’s government in Madhya Pradesh in 2003 to securing victories for the party in several elections in Gujarat, and in Maharashtra in 2014.

Mathur’s winning streak, however, came to end in Jharkhand, where he was the BJP’s election in-charge.

A number of BJP leaders ThePrint spoke to described Mathur as a leader who has a wonderful grasp of caste and other electoral arithmetic and chemistry, and is a meticulous planner. “He has a memory like an elephant and this really comes handy for a politician like him as he travels extensively,” a close aide of Mathur told ThePrint.

But party insiders are now questioning Mathur’s decision to back Chief Minister Raghubar Das, and giving him primacy in election management, after being put in charge of Jharkhand on 9 November.

Also read: With Jharkhand, India is telling Modi it wants a ‘majboor sarkaar’, not ‘majboot sarkaar’

Who is Om Mathur?

Mathur has been associated with the RSS as a pracharak since 1972. At one point, in 2014, he was also in the reckoning to become BJP president — the post eventually went to Amit Shah.

“He is considered quite close to PM Modi. They both knew each other since their youth. Also, when Modi was facing a tough time and was hoping to be re-elected (as CM of Gujarat), Mathur stuck to him. The PM remembers that,” said a senior BJP leader.

Thanks to his RSS background, Mathur has always enjoyed an immense clout in the party.

“Such was his clout that he used to compel (former chief minister of Rajasthan) Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to visit him every day to discuss party and government issues before heading to the secretariat,” said the aide quoted above. “He had devised this system to ensure better coordination between the party and the government, as he was BJP’s general-secretary (organisation) for Rajasthan.”

Another senior BJP leader said: “Under Mathur’s leadership, the party has performed well in the past in states like Gujarat. He was the state president of Rajasthan too. Even during the Uttar Pradesh elections, he worked along with other leaders and ensured a win for the party.”

Also read: Modi lost Jharkhand because his priorities have changed – from vikas purush to Hindu saviour

What went wrong in Jharkhand

However, this leader said of the Jharkhand results: “In Jharkhand, anti-incumbency and the image of the chief minister were major issues; something which Mathur didn’t realise would play such a crucial role.”

A functionary of the Jharkhand BJP pointed out that Mathur’s role in ensuring Modi’s re-election in the 2007 and 2012 Gujarat elections as well as other states was one of the reasons the party had full faith in him. “But it seems Jharkhand was a completely different ball game, and he relied on Das’ inputs as far as ticket distribution was concerned,” the functionary said.

The result was that not only did the BJP fail to get anywhere near its target of winning 65 out of the state’s 81 seats, but it got reduced to 25, even ceding the tag of the single largest party. This is the fifth state that has slipped out of the BJP’s hands in the last one year, after Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

However, there are also those who believe that the Jharkhand defeat could not be pinned on Mathur. “He worked quite hard especially in organising the PM and other leaders’ rallies. It seems now that the local conditions were not conducive (to victory),” said another Jharkhand BJP leader.

“At the same time, the CM kept everything under his control and gave the impression that everything was fine,” the leader added.

Also read: Not just in Jharkhand, Amit Shah’s ‘Chanakya Niti’ has faltered in other states too


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  1. Nothing succeeds like success. Sometimes the converse is equally true. What one has observed over the last six years is a supreme confidence that elections are a self contained art and science – with tanker loads of ATF – that exist in a parallel universe, with not much interface with governance and economic well being. The dent / denial / defeat have a larger national story to tell that the spinmeisters will not encourage. It starts from Gujarat, covers Karnataka, also Rajasthan, MP and Chhatisgarh. Electoral victories can no longer be plucked out of thin air, from brilliantly planned and executed campaigns alone.

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