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HomePoliticsNot just Modi, Gujarat BJP's banking on CR Paatil’s ‘82-lakh army’ to...

Not just Modi, Gujarat BJP’s banking on CR Paatil’s ‘82-lakh army’ to micromanage state polls

An extension of BJP state chief Paatil's 'panna pramukh' model that secured him Lok Sabha wins, new model entails 5-person 'page committees' which will be in charge of 1 electoral page.

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Ahmedabad: Eyeing a “historic mandate” in the upcoming Gujarat assembly polls, the BJP is banking on a new model for victory courtesy its state unit chief CR Paatil, a trusted lieutenant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The BJP first employed Paatil’s model in the 2021 Gujarat local body polls, which it won handsomely.

Paatil, a three-time Lok Sabha MP from Navsari, has already proven his mettle by passing two electoral tests ever since he was appointed Gujarat BJP chief in July 2020. In November that year, the party won all eight seats on which bypolls were held, and then in 2021, it swept the local body polls.

Winning the upcoming state assembly polls with a respectable mandate would, however, be the biggest challenge to Paatil’s organisational skills.

In his Lok Sabha victories, Paatil used an army of grassroots workers to micromanage elections, according to BJP sources. For the assembly elections, the state unit under his leadership is similarly employing an “82 lakh-strong army of BJP identity cardholders” who have been directed to micro-manage the voters and ensure “2.4 crore ballots” in favour of the party.

That is half of the 4.8 crore eligible voting population in Gujarat a state the BJP has ruled for 27 years.

BJP general secretary Bhargav Bhatt told ThePrint, “This experiment will be a game-changer for election management in India.”

According to BJP leaders, the new model is an extension of the party’s “panna-pramukh model” in which one person was put in charge of a panna (page) of the voters’ list. In the new model, a “page committee” of five persons has been formed, which will be in charge of around 30 voters on one electoral page. They will first be tasked with convincing their own family members to vote for the BJP.

Bhatt said, “The ‘panna pramukh’ model was replicated in many BJP states and helped expand the organisation to micro-manage elections at the booth level. So now we have formed page committees, and in every family of Gujarat now, one member is a BJP worker. We have 82 lakh such committee members so far.”

A senior Gujarat BJP leader told ThePrint that before becoming state president, Paatil used this model in Navsari and won the 2019 Lok Sabha polls with the highest margin of 6.89 lakh votes. “He then used it in the civic polls of 2021 where we got tremendous success.”

“The party is hopeful that this micromanagement of elections would break all previous records of victory. That is why we have set a target of winning more than 149 seats (in the 182-member Gujarat assembly). It will be a test of the effectiveness of the page committee model,” he added.

The BJP is in full election mode in Gujarat. It organised the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra this month. Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held back-to-back meetings across the state with MPs, MLAs, and district presidents to take assessment of poll preparedness.

PM Modi is set to interact with the page committee members next week at the Diwali ‘Sneh Milan’ programme in Gujarat to enthuse them before the assembly elections.

Next week, the party is also preparing for major programmes an observer will take feedback on winnable candidates in each constituency, meetings will be held of all BJP units, morcha members, district and mandal units, and page committee members will hold interactions with people to maximise party outreach.

Also read: ‘Modi hai to namumkin hai’—how BJP plans to win Gujarat with this new slogan

Page committee vs panna pramukh 

Elaborating on the new model, the senior Gujarat BJP leader quoted earlier said: “We earlier experimented with the panna pramukh model, where the panna pramukh was in charge of one page of the electoral roll and his duty was to interact with the electorate regularly and ensure voter turnout in favour of party”.

Now, he added, the Gujarat BJP has created a committee for every page “which normally has 30 names of voters and a maximum of 10 families per page”.

“We have formed committees of five members for every page in each booth, but unlike panna pramukh, page committee members have to ensure votes from their own families at least three in favour of the BJP. If this happens, we will draw around 2.4 crore votes (from 82 lakh page committee members) in the assembly election and this will translate to 130-150 seats,” the BJP leader further said.

According to rough calculations by the party leaders, “if 60 to 70 per cent of the page committee members perform, our job of getting a good mandate is done”. The party had in 2017 won 1.4 crore votes in Gujarat.

‘Empowering’ with ID cards, beneficiary schemes

To empower the page committee members further, the BJP has decided to give them party ID cards, and put them in charge of drawing beneficiaries to government schemes.

A second party leader from Gujarat, not wanting to be named, told ThePrint: “We have one BJP karyakarta in every family of Gujarat and we have also created a huge worker base this way. The members have been given an identity card so that they can feel empowered as a BJP worker, just like professionals do. All 82 lakh members have verified phone numbers and other details in our database.”

A third state BJP leader said that the party “has also made page committee members as the key persons for enrolment of beneficiaries in government schemes so that they get a foothold in every nook and cranny of their booth”.

Hoping for ‘historic mandate’

In the last one year, the BJP has held several meetings of page committee members, with the PM also praising the model at the BJP national executive meeting held in Hyderabad in July.

Prior to the 2021 Gujarat civic polls, Modi had written a letter in Gujarati to infuse pride among party workers. In January this year, he had interacted with page committee members to keep their morale high.

The party has also started a programme in which senior leaders have to visit the homes of page committee members and meet their families.

Gordhan Zadafia, vice-president of the Gujarat BJP, told ThePrint: “We used the panna pramukh model in Gujarat 15 years ago, but CR Paatil has implemented the page committee model, which is more micro than panna pramukh.”

He further said, “In this, apart from BJP workers, we have verified page committee members who are continuously engaged in party activities. Through them, we also get feedback from the ground. All this will help us in getting a historic mandate in the state.”

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also read: ‘Moditva’, wooing tribals, scarce mention of CM: What BJP strategy in Gujarat yatra was all about

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