PM-UDAY, Modi and whistle stops: BJP's experiments to win Delhi polls

Part of the BJP’s under-confidence is exemplified by its decision to fight the Assembly polls in the name of PM Narendra Modi.
A  few months before the general election in 2019, millions of small and marginal farmers across India got Rs 2,000 in their bank accounts under a scheme called PM-KISAN (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi). This came with a promise that another Rs 4,000 was on its way to all categories of farmers if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was voted back to power. 

So when Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a huge crowd at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on December 22 to hard-sell his government’s mass legalisation of 1,731 illegal residential colonies in Delhi, the BJP would have been hoping that the PM-UDAY (Pradhan Mantri Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Adhikar Yojana) does to the party’s fortune in Delhi what the PM-KISAN achieved in the national election. 

Undoubtedly, the PM-UDAY will be the singular most credible achievement of the BJP to ballyhoo to Delhi’s residents. An estimated 4 million people — almost a third of Delhi’s 14.6 million voters and a fifth of its 20 million population — are being seen as beneficiaries of this pre-poll largesse. A couple of days before the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the Assembly polls, the first 20 beneficiaries were handed their property documents by Union minister Hardeep Puri. 

The BJP will be hoping that the voters among the remaining “illegal” 4 million will be tantalised by the good fortunes showered on the first 20, and vote for it. And it won’t be just about these people in the colonies which have now been declared legal. Another 67 affluent colonies like Sainik Farms and Chattarpur, which have been excluded this time around, have been promised to be included in the next phase of regularisation. A look at the spread of these colonies shows that the BJP’s enticement will reverberate in 60 of the 70 Assembly constituencies. Among the 10 constituencies where no irregular colonies have been identified include Muslim-dominated Ballimaran and Matia Mahal. 

In many ways, the timing and the execution of the PM-UDAY show that the BJP is facing a formidable challenge from the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the upcoming Delhi Assembly election. Part of the BJP’s under-confidence is also exemplified by its decision to project Modi as the face of the party in Delhi. In 2015, the move to project present Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi had backfired on the party. In 2013, with Harsh Vardhan as its CM face, the party could not form the government. 

Source: Election Commission, media reports
A game-changing scheme named after the PM and with Modi as its face, the BJP appears to have conceded that none of its so-called local leaders like Manoj Tiwari, Vijay Goel, and Harsh Vardhan can counter Kejriwal’s stature in Delhi. 

This time around, the BJP has switched to whistle-stop campaigning tactics. BJP President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah instructed booth workers to “visit every house and hold small mohalla (street) meetings”, instead of holding ostentatious rallies. This in many ways has been Kejriwal’s strategy over the years.

During the 2013 and the 2015 elections, the AAP workers would go house to house not just in illegal colonies but also middle-class residential societies after office hours to meet people and canvass for their local candidate. The strategy yielded impressive results for the AAP in a predominantly urban election like Delhi, where mega rallies involve complicated logistics with uncertain electoral returns or crowd attendance. The party had won 67 of the 70 seats in the 2015 election and had debuted with 28 seats in 2013 to form a short-lived government with the Congress with this highly personalised and localised method of campaigning. 

The BJP appears to have nothing to challenge Kejriwal on either corruption or nepotism. The Delhi CM has a counter for most allegations of misgovernance or under-performance which have been thrown at him by the BJP’s local leaders in the run-up to the elections. 

So what can Modi, the PM-UDAY and Shah’s AAP-inspired campaigning game plan mean for the BJP? The BJP had nothing to display as an achievement for Delhi in 2015 except hope for the Modi wave to work its magic. The party still managed to get a 32.19 per cent vote share, even though it won just three of the 70 seats. The AAP not just won 67 seats but also denied opposition parties any close contests. In 2015, only four AAP candidates had winning margins of less than 5 per cent. 

This time the BJP not just has an alluring pre-election bonanza with Modi as its face but a known, tested and successful campaigning strategy to entice voters. But will that be enough to challenge the incumbent and still popular Kejriwal? February 11 could well answer that question.


*1,731 illegal colonies legalised under the PM-UDAY

*4 million people live in these colonies, or one-third of voters

*20 beneficiaries have been handed property papers

*60 Assembly constituencies have these illegal colonies

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