Tech to the booth: BJP’s mission 51 in Madhya Pradesh

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Tech to the booth: BJP’s mission 51 in Madhya Pradesh


When it comes to setting targets and working towards them, none does it better than the BJP. The assembly election in Madhya Pradesh may be more than a year and half away, but the state unit is ensuring 2023 is not a repeat of 2018. In that election, the saffron party’s 41.02 per cent vote share proved insufficient to make it the largest party in the 230-member assembly. The Congress, with a marginally smaller vote share of 40.89 per cent, bagged 114 seats—five more than the BJP’s 109—and went on to form the government. Jyotiraditya Scindia’s rebellion in March 2020 and shift to the BJP along with 22 MLAs saw Shivraj Singh Chouhan return as chief minister. Yet, the two-year hiatus after 15 years at the helm put a question mark on the saffron party’s electoral dominance in the state. Unwilling to leave anything to chance, the BJP has turned to a booth-based statistical model to increase its vote share by 10 per cent in 2023. Hence Mission 51.

When it comes to setting targets and working towards them, none does it better than the BJP. The assembly election in Madhya Pradesh may be more than a year and half away, but the state unit is ensuring 2023 is not a repeat of 2018. In that election, the saffron party’s 41.02 per cent vote share proved insufficient to make it the largest party in the 230-member assembly. The Congress, with a marginally smaller vote share of 40.89 per cent, bagged 114 seats—five more than the BJP’s 109—and went on to form the government. Jyotiraditya Scindia’s rebellion in March 2020 and shift to the BJP along with 22 MLAs saw Shivraj Singh Chouhan return as chief minister. Yet, the two-year hiatus after 15 years at the helm put a question mark on the saffron party’s electoral dominance in the state. Unwilling to leave anything to chance, the BJP has turned to a booth-based statistical model to increase its vote share by 10 per cent in 2023. Hence Mission 51.

Party leaders know it won’t be easy. The plan involves the use of digital technology for sharing data from the booth level—the most crucial unit—to the party headquarters in Bhopal and vice versa. With more than 64,000 polling booths in the state, it is a gargantuan task. Information from the booth is shared via Sangathan, a mobile app developed specifically for the purpose. It is also used to monitor the work of the booth-level team. While workers earlier used to fill in data from their homes, the app’s geofencing feature creates a virtual geographic boundary around the booth area and allows data upload only when they are inside it. Updated data can be seen on a dashboard in the tech room at the Bhopal headquarters.

The plan was set in motion in November 2021, with nearly 21,000 vistaraks fanning out across the state to set up booth-level bodies. Called ‘Tridev’ in party parlance, each booth-level body has a president, a general secretary and an agent.

According to state BJP president and Lok Sabha MP V.D. Sharma, the plan has led to the digitisation of party work in around 94 per cent of the booths. “It helps in effective monitoring of party work right down to the booth level. A similar approach helped the party immensely in the Gujarat civic body elections last year,” says Sharma.

The plan involves booth-level teams zeroing in on voters of their respective booths and classifying them into three categories: those opposed to the BJP; beneficiaries of various schemes launched by BJP governments in the state and at the Centre; and influential people who didn’t vote for the BJP but could be brought over to the party’s side.

To ensure that the booth-level workers are up to the task, a training exercise would be held in all 1,020 mandals in the state. To get beneficiaries of government schemes to vote for the BJP, the workers have been told to make them directly associate what they have been given—say, a house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, or free rations—with the party in power. Laadli Laxmi sammelans and Ayushman Yojana meetings are to be held at the booth level with the beneficiaries of these schemes so that the workers can drive home the point. Moreover, to enable regular interaction with voters, the workers will organise celebrations on the birth anniversaries of B.R. Ambedkar, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, among others.

Tech to the booth: BJP’s mission 51 in Madhya Pradesh

Graphic by Asit Roy

The party has identified tribals and SCs as groups that can help push up the vote share to 51 per cent. While there has been a clear plan to woo tribals—the President, the prime minister and the Union home minister visited the state for a tribal festival, towns and amenities were renamed after tribal icons, and tribal-specific schemes were announced—the party began focusing on SCs after the recent bypolls in which it lost the SC-reserved Raigaon seat to the Congress. “We held that seat earlier, but the SC voters moved away from us. A clear message has been sent to workers to work among the community,” says a party functionary involved in the plan. The party’s state unit has decided to develop SC leaders at the local level to reach out to the community.

While party leaders are confident of pulling off the aspired jump in vote share, challenges remain. During monitoring, Bhopal-based functionaries are still finding booths where the data being uploaded on Sangathan is not accurate. The plan’s success also depends on parties other than the BJP and the Congress being unable to bag a significant number of votes. Buoyed by its Punjab victory, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will likely make inroads in Madhya Pradesh too, and it’s not clear whether it will be the BJP’s or the Congress’s votes that AAP or some other party would cut into. Meanwhile, the Congress too has unveiled a plan to strengthen the party at the booth and mandal levels. What seems inevitable is that the big fight will be over who dominates the electoral scene at the level of its basic building bloc—the polling booth.



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