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Enter Modi, the poll math juggler

- BJP leader plays up party’s 2014 chances, says difference with Cong last time was ‘marginal’
(Clockwise from top left) Narendra Modi, Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh arrive for the chief ministers’ meet at the BJP office in New Delhi on Tuesday. Pictures by Prem Singh and PTI

New Delhi, Dec. 24: Narendra Modi today talked up his party’s odds for winning the 2014 elections by peddling a bizarre mathematical formulation.

The BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister claimed that although the Congress (with 206 seats) was ahead of his party in the last Lok Sabha polls by 90 seats, there was a “difference” of “just” 89 lakh votes between the two if the constituencies where the BJP finished second by a “narrow” margin were factored in.

According to Modi, who addressed a meeting of the BJP’s expanded campaign committee here this evening, there were many such constituencies.

The difference, according to spokesperson Prakash Javdekar who briefed the media, was “bridgeable” because for the BJP it was a “question” of wresting 90 “marginal” seats from the Congress.

Modi’s other contention, that Javdekar articulated, was that in the past 15 years, nearly 12 crore voters had been added to the rolls. However, Javdekar left the contention unfinished and did not claim that a chunk of the new voters would gravitate towards the BJP because of Modi. “But that was presumably Modi’s assumption,” a member of a campaign sub-committee said.

Asked why Modi did not consider seats where the BJP could be up against strong regional parties, Javdekar was silent. Sources said the message emanating from Modi’s formulation was that in a straight fight with the Congress, the BJP was advantageously placed now and should, therefore, maximise on the “head-start” it has got.

This situation prevails in large swathes of north and west India but excludes vast stretches of the east and the south where the BJP is either peripheral or down and out (Karnataka) or non-existent.

The meeting also firmed up a blueprint to propagate the “Modi-for-PM” message more aggressively by launching a fund named after the slogan. BJP workers will be directed to collect funds under a programme called “one vote, one note”.

“We will run a Modi-for-PM campaign across the country, people can contribute from as low as Rs 10 to a maximum of Rs 1,000,” general secretary Ananth Kumar said.

To net the new votes that Modi spoke of, Javdekar said BJP workers would ensure that they were registered and once that was done, the party would felicitate them at special programmes.

As part of its “Mission 272-plus” — the tagline denotes the BJP’s agenda to get a majority on its own — the party launched a portal, India272.com, and claimed that in just three days it had enlisted over a lakh volunteers who covered the socio-economic gamut from fisherfolk and students to private sector employees. “Many can’t enrol directly as BJP members,” Javdekar said.

The social media efforts will be supplemented by “old-fashioned” methods of reaching out directly to voters and persuading them to come to booths on election day.

Sources said the Jana Sangh, the BJP’s former avatar, used to canvass door to door. Even the BJP did it in its early years. “But the Aam Aadmi Party’s success reminded us of the merits of this style of campaigning and we now plan to go back to it,” a source said.

A sitting of the BJP’s chief ministers preceded the campaign panel meeting. The Delhi unit plastered the city with posters of Modi, Raman Singh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje and Manohar Parrikar, ensuring that nobody crowded out or dwarfed the other.

Uddhav dig

Modi’s pet refrain about Gujarat’s development record and subtle digs at ally Shiv Sena during his massive Mumbai rally on Sunday appears to have rubbed Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray the wrong way.

In a biting editorial in party mouthpiece Saamna, Uddhav said: “Modi should not be worried about Maharashtra. Here there is Shiv Sena and the saffron flag is on the Sena’s shoulder.”

At the rally, Modi had said: “In these years, Gujarat had 14 chief ministers. But in Maharashtra, 26 chief ministers were elected. Now tell me, what kind of politics would this state be having?”

Uddhav also wrote that “Modi should realise now that he is not just a leader of the Gujarati community but a leader of the country”.