Managing The BJP Way – Story Of UP Victory – Part 1

8th November 2015

It was a gloomy evening for two Gujju men in Lutyens zone bungalow of New Delhi.  BJP was clean swept in Bihar state assembly elections. These two men had put their 200% efforts in elections; staked their reputation on it, as it was considered to be the first litmus test for them and BJP after May 2014 Loksabha elections. By the evening of result day, news channels were running headlines like “Modi magic seems to fade away”, “Amit shah isn’t the Chanakya you thought”, “Prashant Kishore proves himself again…”, “Where is Modi wave now…”, “Nitish make a claim to Delhi throne..”.

A year and a half after winning Loksabha elections with thumping majority and multiple assembly elections, Bihar was the first big challenge to BJP’s rise in India. The opposition had united by the name of ‘Mahagathbandhan’ to fight Modi-Shah onslaught, which If succeeded, could become future blueprint in all major elections. Modi had made Bihar elections an issue of prestige for him, posters put up there contained only Modi-Shah’s photo while local leadership was almost sidelined. The campaign was set to such high decibel that Modi had called Lalu Yadav ‘Shaitan’ once. The strategy of Mahagathbandhan seemed to work, they diverted BJP’s campaign from development to mudslinging, considered to be home turf of Lalu Yadav.

Prashant Kishore, the master strategist, devised a trap, where Nitish would conduct smaller rallies but in large numbers communicating development agenda whereas Lalu would distract BJP with his antics. Mahagathbandhan gave Congress a meager chunk of seats to keep them from cutting their votes but at the same time, Nitish-Lalu didn’t share the stage with Rahul Gandhi for most of the time as they were aware of its repercussions. Everything they did, paid off.

11th March 2017

Written off by everyone after Bihar, BJP cadre in UP didn’t expect to do well in UP 2017 too. But exactly 1 year, 4 months and 3 days later on 11th March when results of UP election were announced, not just National but International media too was hailing PM Modi.

How did they manage to win 80% of seats in UP elections 2017? Here’s a Management perspective:

1.      Defining the problem: BJP was quick enough to gauge the impact of Bihar’s defeat. The country was riding on Modi wave but this election had put a full stop. A faction of media, disgruntled leaders within party like LK Advani would openly speak against Modi-Shah duo now. Moreover, it would adversely affect their chances in UP. UP and Bihar together has 120 Loksabha seats, out of which BJP alliance (NDA) won 101 in 2014 LS polls. To get a second term in 2019, BJP must retain these seats and loosing UP state election won’t help their cause. So they had a very clear problem definition for them- “To gain a clear majority in UP state elections 2017, which will be crucial for Loksabha 2019”.


2.    Understanding the ground realities: Every election can’t be fought only on Modi’s name and he can’t stake his reputation everywhere. After Loksabha 2014, 13 seats of UP State assembly went for By-polls as sitting BJP MLAs were elected as MP. Out of 13, BJP lost 10, which was considered to be the reading for future. BJP cadre in UP was nonexistent in many seats, party lacked leaders of stature to fight Akhilesh, Mayawati and there would be extreme infighting within if a CM candidate is declared in advance. In a state where Caste is a key driving factor for voting, BJP didn’t have any dominant caste support. Muslims, Yadavs, Jatav (SC) castes, a sizable chunk of the population, had loyalties for SP-BSP and would never vote for BJP if the clock is set to Nov 2015.

Limitations were aplenty for BJP in UP but every negative can be converted into positive if there is a plan and an iron-will to execute it. After understanding above two factors, BJP strategists went on to devise a plan which can be considered to be the mother of all in recent political memory.

To read about the execution, wait for the part 2 of the story. For any suggestions, improvements or opinions,  feel free to comment below.

Sachin Mandot

Sachin Mandot is an IMT-G Alum (Batch of 2018). With an aim to help MBA aspirants, he has been writing on InsideIIM platform since March 2017.