Party leaders who have worked on the UP strategy for months told ET, over the course of lengthy interactions, that contrary to pundits' criticism about wrong ticket distribution and faulty caste arithmetic, the election front-runner is privately satisfied that its plans are working.
"We're looking at 53 seats," a BJP leader said. "And our strategy has four broad strands." Plus, there's a post-poll plan — and BJP leaders are calling it 'panchayat to Parliament'.
BJP leaders who spoke to ET for this news report did so on the condition that they not be identified.
FIND CADRE & LEADER:
BJP's 1998 performance — 58 seats in the 85-seat undivided UP — was the target set internally. In today's UP that meant 53 seats; five of the seats it won in 1998 are in Uttarakhand now. But against this target, said a BJP leader closely involved with poll decimation of party structure in UP.
This leader said when Amit Shah, close confidant of Narendra Modi, took charge six months ago, the contrast between Bihar, another crucial state, and UP could not have been more apparent.
In Bihar, BJP had been in government till it broke up with JD(U) and its poll performance had been respectable. In UP, another BJP strategist said, "There was no cadre... we haven't been in power for 17 years... forget about being in power, we weren't even in the contest."
And, this strategist said, Shah couldn't fall back on a strong state leadership either. "There was no Sushil Modi equivalent in UP," he said. "In UP, state leaders were 75-82 years of age. How would we have even attracted youth votes?" a close aide of Shah said. Plus, the aide pointed out, the existing leadership also lacked connect with workers.
So, Shah's priorities were set: get candidates of a quality that overcomes the handicap of weak state leadership and get the message on Modi to every corner of UP, especially remote corners where only BSP and SP have effective name recognition.