NEW DELHI: In battleground Varanasi, BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) put up its might to lure elusive OBC voters, to break caste calculus of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. Going a step ahead, the Sangh did something uncharacteristic. Not only did it recruit over 600 Muslim volunteers for mass contact programmes but even distributed Quran in Devnagari and Hanuman Chalisa in Urdu to bridge the chasm.
As the results were declared on May 16, the historic tally of 71 seats created a saffron surge that inundated not only the SP and the BSP but even brought the grand old party-the Congress-to its knees. Behind this surge stood the work put in by RSS.
If Narendra Modi led his campaign on a larger canvas addressing well-attended rallies across the country to build an image of a strong leader, the RSS workers micro-managed his message not only in the traditional Hindi heartland, but even the South and North Eastern states.
With over 44,000 units at nearly 30,000 places across the country and over six lakh volunteers, the Sangh co-ordinated with the BJP to prepare its well crafted message. Cadre went door-to-door asking people to come out to vote. The message was topped by educating people on burning issues before the country and need to ‘vote for change’. Working up its most energetic campaign since Emergency, the cadre also gauged feedback from the people to not only help BJP fine tune strategy, but also pick up candidates.
The RSS set up its own cells at the booth level to reach out to individual voters. “The booth level structure-the first layer on the ground, was controlled by the RSS to instil discipline in BJP cadres. A RSS functionary of state was attached with the candidate’s to ensure that each page of the particular voters list was properly managed and least 2-3 contacts before the polling date were made by the page in charge. In Barmer too, RSS local unit was activated to offset the damage by former BJP leader Jaswant Singh who was contesting as Independent,” a Rajasthan RSS functionary said. BJP won all the 25 seats in the desert state.
While, the old went through the conventional route, the younger lot interacted through social media like twitter, whatsapp to connect with first time voters.
The twin message of ‘voting’ and ‘voting for change’ was evident as the polling got over. India achieved a highest ever voting percentage - 66.4 percent - while BJP’s increased its vote share from 18.84 per cent in 2009 to a massive 31 per cent.
Referring to RSS’ role during the elections, Sangh spokesperson Ram Madhav said on Friday, “Our role was to educate people about challenges before the country. Our people have gone from door to door to tell people about the need for a change.”
Sunil Deodhar, a former pracharak and BJP leader who handled Modi’s election campaign in Varanasi said, “RSS and its frontal organisations like Ekal Vidhalayas and Vishwa Hindu Parishad had set up their own teams to reach out to voters. They educated people about issues before the country and motivated people to vote through door to door campaigns. More importantly vote for change.” Deodhar, who has been camping in Varanasi for two months, added that their focus was to strengthen the party organisation to make them fighting fit. Though the election campaign began late in March, the Sangh cadre were interacting with people through various programmes since last year educating them on need to bring change in society. Senior leaders like L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj were quick to laud the role played by RSS. “This victory is the result of hard labour of millions of BJP Karyakartas, blessings of Sangh and able leadership of Narendra Modi,” Sushma had said. Advani was sharper. “How much role Modi’s leadership has to play in it, how much contribution did the RSS make, has to be assessed,” the party patriarch said.
Modi would be the first full time pracharak to reach the top post, even though Atal Bihari Vajpayee too started his political life as RSS volunteer.But Modi fitting the mould of a Hindutva icon, the Sangh threw its weight behind its favourite protégé.