IT IS NOT QUITE 9AM AND BJP’S SPACIOUS office in Bhopal is largely deserted when a car draws up without attracting much attention and Bhupender Yadav steps out. This has been his routine for some weeks now and he gets busy almost immediately, with a meeting with state functionaries and a video conference that takes stock of the campaign and major headlines of the day. An hour later, he has a little more time and enters a cabin which has room for a small sofa and some chairs. Dispensing with generalities, he gets down to his analysis of how the election is shaping up. “Narratives are obviously important to any election and Congress felt it could build one after the Karnataka election. They went whole hog with populism,” he says. BJP, aware that it has been in office for a long time, anticipated the strategy and shored up its flanks. The focus on welfare schemes was strengthened and the party banked on the fact that is has tangibly delivered. “We countered the Congress strategy and ensured we stayed ahead in the war of narratives. Congress tried to raise allegations of commissions and corruption but these have not made any headway,” he says.
The run-up to the election had seen adverse reports on differences in the party and the BJP leadership’s decision to field a host of Union ministers and MPs helped settle such controversies. The senior leaders, aware they were on test, have been campaigning hard. Asked about this, Yadav says, “All leaders, whether ministers or MPs, have pitched in. Everyone is working hard. They are keen to win their own seats and are effective in their areas of influence as well.” Rather than seeing it as a sign of weakness, the minister says BJP’s planning had ensured a team effort and optimum utilisation of resources.
Asked about Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s projection, Yadav says the chief minister was leading by example and campaigning hard and he stresses the team effort. He points to the intensive campaigning by Prime Minister Modi, saying BJP’s promises have a ring of credibility and are based on a solid record in office. “The BJP government has made good its promises and that is why Congress’ pledges will not wash with the people,” he says. Yadav also points to the intensive campaign that has senior leaders coming to Madhya Pradesh while the party has also planned outreach with specific segments of voters in cities and towns for smaller group discussions where ministers have addressed questions in a one-on-one format.
The hall outside Yadav’s office is beginning to fill up and journalists have also begun to trickle in. The day’s transport requirements, as well as for the next few days, are being reviewed by a functionary. Soon it will be time for more assessments and feedback from surveys and party officials deputed to specific constituencies. Going by the hum in the party office, BJP’s poll machine is ticking over smoothly.