The Haryana strategy’s major elements were to identify and work on castes which had grown disenchanted with the ruling Congress but were unlikely to root for other alternatives such as the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), led by Om Prakash Chautala, and the Haryana Janhit Congress.
Other prongs included splitting committed votes and calibrating the BJP’s social engineering agenda to make the party’s appeal “inclusive” instead of being caste or community-specific.
Sources involved in pencilling the blueprint with the BJP president said an “obvious” community whose votes were “up for grabs” was the Dalits. Of Haryana’s 90 constituencies, 17 were reserved for Scheduled Castes. But Dalit votes count in four more seats.
Sources said from the time the BJP socially mapped Haryana, Shah’s focus was on the Dalits. He worked on dividing the All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees’ Federation, known as BAMCEF and set up in 1971 by BSP founder Kanshi Ram with some of his colleagues from Pune’s Defence Research and Development Laboratory where he worked then.
Kanshi Ram left BAMCEF after he got involved with the BSP but the outfit has functioned independently, and has a big presence in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra. “There were three to four factions in BAMCEF, all equally effective. We weaned away the leaders of a couple of them. They campaigned for us among the Dalits,” a source said. Next, Shah marshalled all the BJP’s Dalit MPs and many MLAs from the caste in other states, assigning the 90 Haryana constituencies to one or more of them.
“Our directive to them was go, mingle with the Dalits, talk about the BJP, sing bhajans with them, share their meals and, if possible, stay over in their homes,” a source close to Shah said. The source claimed his assessment was that 70 per cent of the Dalits — historically loyal to the Congress — voted for the BJP this time. “If we swing Haryana, we owe a big thanks to them,” the source said.
Anil Jain, a member of Shah’s crack team in Haryana, said the BJP took care not to stoke old antagonisms between the Dalit sub-castes like the Jatavs, Valmikis, Khatiks and the Dhanuks.
Its own representatives from these sub-groups were put in charge and told specifically to hammer home the message that Dalits were an “influential monolith empowered enough to make or break parties”. “The idea was to make them feel important. They were used as vote banks by the Congress but were expected to play second fiddle to he Jats,” the source said.
Subliminally, the BJP spread the word among the Dalits that if they did not vote en bloc for the party, they would “risk” the “perils” of having to live with a Jat-led Chautala government. “That made them scared,” the source said.
While the BJP seemed reconciled to the inevitability of the Jats — Haryana’s dominant caste — going for Chautala’s INLD to defeat the Congress, Shah stressed the need to split their votes.
The BJP initially had one major Jat representative: its spokesperson and national secretary Abhimanyu, who belongs to a family involved in the mining business in Chhattisgarh.
But after spiriting away local big names from the Congress — like Choudhary Birendra Singh and Krishna Gehlawat — and Surendra Singh Barwala from Chautala’s party, the BJP made full use of their clout. The feedback was that Birendra was the “most effective” in the Jat line-up.
Central minister and Lok Sabha MP Rao Inderjit Singh, also a former Congress leader, was tasked to oversee the Yadav “territory”, covering Gurgaon, Rewari and Mahendragarh.
The BJP, though, had to factor in Inderjit’s family rivalry with another of its Yadav satraps, Rao Narbir Singh of Rewari. “These Yadav clans still bay for each other’s blood. But we spoke to them from hours and convinced them to set aside their personal feuds for the elections,” the source said.
Realising that it was not possible to expect a big slice of the Jat votes, Shah hit upon the tactic of consolidating Brahmin and Bania support.
The BJP president will move into 11 Akbar Road, the bungalow he has been allotted, early next week. Although Shah is not an MP, as the BJP chief, he is entitled to an official residence. He intends spending Diwali at the new home with family.
-The Telegraph, Calcutta