BJP's UP war room gets into full combat mode; IITians working with party seniors

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LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh polls are a month away, and Bharatiya Janata Party’s war room in Lucknow is in full attack mode. It’s planning for 10 “mega rallies” by PM Narendra Modi. And 10 sections in the war room, manned by senior leaders and information technology professionals, including some from Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), are directing massive messaging efforts, like WhatsApp posts that can reach 12 lakh voters at one go.

ET visited BJP’s war room at the Lucknow party headquarters that also monitors video vans and campaigners touring the vast state on motorbikes. The party claims the four- and two-wheelers have reached out to 30 lakh people so far.

The war room’s priority right now is planning Modi’s rallies. “We are proposing one rally of PM Modi during each of the seven phases of UP elections. There may be two rallies in a phase too. The first may be in Muzaffarnagar or Aligarh towards the end of this month,” JPS Rathore, BJP state vice-president, told ET.

Four hundred video vans and 1,650 motorbike-riding campaigners are building the ‘buzz’, war room staffers said. They said 20 lakh ‘aspiration’ postcards have been collected from voters; these messages are being analysed and will feed into BJP’s manifesto.

BJP’s Uttar Pradesh IT head Sanjay Rai told ET that the state unit runs 8,000 WhatsApp groups for six regions, and boasts a total reach of 12 lakh people. “WhatsApp is the most popular networking application in the state — around 4.5 crore people use it. We can reach 12 lakh people with our message with the push of a button.

The message is forwarded by them invariably to other groups they may be part of,” said Rai. A 110-seater call centre is also operational in the war room. Each operator makes 250 calls daily, talking to booth committee heads, and then creates feedback reports.

BJP has 1.4 lakh booths in UP. There’s also a research centre and an electronic media reporting department. These outfits analyse local issues that can influence campaign messaging. A team of over a dozen generates content for UP BJP on social media. The state unit says its Facebook page reaches 1.3 crore.

BJP leaders say apps detailing the party’s poll pitch can be downloaded quickly — three apps in 15 seconds — from devices available in the party’s district offices. Camps set up at some rallies will also offer this facility.

Old-style campaign tactics have not been abandoned. On January 13, BJP is organising ‘Mati Tilak Pratigya’ events at 75 locations in the state. The party says 5,000 farmers are expected to turn up at each location. Each farmer is supposed to get a tilak (a mark on the forehead), which will represent, BJP leaders say, the party’s pledge to “solve” farmers’ issues.

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