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Shah starts poll recce of 3 states

Amit Shah

New Delhi: BJP president Amit Shah has launched preparations for the next round of crucial state elections this year-end that will set the tone for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, focusing on motivating party workers to battle accumulated anti-incumbency.

Three BJP-ruled states - Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh - go to the polls in the year-end and the party feels overcoming accumulated anti-incumbency of years of rule would be the biggest challenge that can best be countered by motivated and activated cadres.

Shah reached Madhya Pradesh on a day-long tour on Tuesday after covering parts of Chhattisgarh and is scheduled to visit Rajasthan to take stock and finetune the party organisation, BJP leaders said. He held a closed-door meeting of the party's state election management committee and also met social media volunteers, who play a big role in the digital campaign.

BJP leaders said that apart from the overarching campaign of projecting Narendra Modi to sweep aside disappointment with the state governments, the foot-soldiers of the party and its sympathisers would play a big role in neutralising anti-incumbency.

"We have noticed that whenever the general people are unhappy with our governments, the party cadres and BJP supporters get demoralised and withdraw. In many places we have lost because our supporters didn't turn up to vote," a BJP leader said.

The BJP has been ruling Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for three terms in a row since 2003 and the party leadership feels that retaining power in the two states is bound to be difficult. The party also faces a big challenge in Rajasthan that has a tradition of ousting the incumbent.

The BJP has been in power in Rajasthan for one term but it is in this state that the party faces its biggest challenge. The recent defeats in two Lok Sabha bypolls and one Assembly by-election have indicated that the public mood is against the party. To add to this, the party organisation is in a bad shape, BJP leaders said.

"Amit Shah will face the toughest challenge in Rajasthan. Apart from battling public anger he has to also tackle a mercurial chief minister," a BJP leader said, referring to the tussle between Shah and Vasundhara Raje Scindia over the appointment of a new state president.

Victory in this round of state elections is crucial for the party since the Congress happens to be the principal opponent in all three states. If the BJP loses, it would revive the marginalised Congress.

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