BJP sights on Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh
The BJP leadership in poll-bound Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh has been engaged in an aggressive effort to counter a growing buzz around the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) after its stunning victory in the Punjab elections.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP has been making substantial inroads in the traditional bipolar states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh that have seen a BJP vs Congress fight for decades. The AAP is seeking to replace the Congress as the principal challenger to the BJP.
In Gujarat, the home turf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah, and in BJP chief J.P. Nadda’s home ground Himachal Pradesh, the stress is to thwart the AAP’s bid to get a foothold, the BJP insiders said. Both states are due for polls this year.
“A leader or a party may be popular but that can’t be translated into votes in the absence of dedicated party workers on the ground,” said one key BJP leader handling Gujarat affairs.
The leader acknowledged the growing popularity of the AAP, particularly in urban areas of Gujarat, and obliquely hinted towards a drive by the BJP to deprive the new challenger of securing enough foot soldiers on the ground.
“The AAP doesn’t have and will not get dedicated party workers in Gujarat during election time,” the leader said.
Recently, BJP chief J.P. Nadda and information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur rushed to Shimla to welcome AAP’s state president Anoop Kesari and other leaders into the party around midnight.
Thakur, who is seen to be eyeing the chief minister’s post, tweeted the success of the poaching operation, at 12:51am last Saturday.
A similar effort is underway in Gujarat, party insiders said, adding that it was currently focused on winning over low-key AAP workers on the ground while consolidating and energising the BJP’s own cadres.
The BJP leaders rubbished any potential threat from the AAP in the form of a big upset and sought to explain their aggressive strategy with an eye on the future. “We don’t want the AAP to gain a foothold in the two states and emerge as a potential challenger in the future,” a BJP leader in Delhi said, pointing out the AAP’s rise in Punjab.
The BJP leadership in both Himachal and Gujarat is focusing on boosting the morale of their own cadres.
BJP chief J.P. Nadda on Monday was seen fixing a nameplate at the house of polling booth-level worker.
Coinciding with the BJP’s foundation day on April 6, Gujarat BJP chief C.R. Paatil distributed smart identity cards to 1.29 lakh active party workers at a big function and warned leaders and ministers against “insulting” them.
The Gujarat BJP has also designed a new party cap and directed party workers to wear it compulsorily while going out among the people. The AAP’s white cap with the election symbol “broom” has been successfully used as a powerful optic to drive the party’s campaign.
PM Modi had worn the new BJP cap during his visit to Gujarat and also while addressing leaders and workers on the BJP’s foundation day.