Parties put all their energies into micromanaging polls

Knowing full well that winning the Assembly elections is a stiff challenge, the two national parties - the Congress and the BJP - have, for the first time, taken up an unprecedented micromanagement of polls in Karnataka.

BJP National president Amit Shah, who is considered a master strategist, has unveiled a massive mass-contact programme to reach out to voters a strategy he employed to pull off a victory in the Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat Assembly elections. "Win booths and we will win the elections," is what Shah is learnt to have told the state BJP leaders in one of the meetings on micromanagement.

The BJP has appointed 'Vistaaraks' (a group of dedicated workers tasked with delivering the party's message to the people's doorsteps), 'Page Pramukhs' (leaders in-charge of each page of voters' list), and 'Shakti Kendra Karyakartas (workers tasked with managing a set of booths). Every booth-level worker has been assigned to chase at least 30 voters.

These workers would meet every individual voter in person and educate them about the BJP government's achievements at the Centre and failures of the Congress-led state government. It will be their responsibility to ensure that the majority of 30 voters assigned to them come to polling booths and vote in favour of the party.

The Congress is making all-out effort to retain power. The party has come out with its own version of micromanagement to counter the BJP. It organised 'Mane Manage Congress' (a door-to-door campaign) across all the 224 Assembly constituencies. The party has assigned the responsibility of booth-level management to all its leaders from the chief minister to grassroots-level workers, under 'Namma Kshetra, Namma Hone' (Our Constituency, Our Responsibility) programme.

The JD(S) tried to follow in the footsteps of the national parties by organising 'Mane Mange Kumaranna' campaign. But the party could not sustain it in the absence of booth-level committees.

The national parties started preparing the grounds for micromanagement as early as September last year. Shah and AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal took up a mammoth task of forming booth-level committees at 56,000 polling booths, comprising about a dozen members each. The move initially met with resistance from a section of leaders. Shah and Venugopal, however, did not relent. The Congress has, as a result, transformed itself into a cadre-based party from being a mass-based party.

Political parties in the past used to form booth-level committees only a week before the elections for managing polling booths.

The BJP appears to be a notch above the Congress in the micromanagement of elections. It has been making use of its booth-level workers for carrying out sustained campaigns such as 'Akki Mushti Abhiyana' and 'Kamala Jatre'. Shah is said to be keeping close tabs on activities at the grassroots-level and fine-tuning the strategy wherever necessary. He obtained a detailed report on the functioning of booth-level workers by deputing a team of Central leaders, including Union ministers, recently.

But, given the diverse political landscape of Karnataka, the big question is: Will micromanagement prove to be a game changer? Political analyst Prof Harish Ramaswamy said micromanagement is unlikely to have a major impact. "The BJP started it rather late. Moreover, the party is maintaining silence on some of the major issues. It is bothering people. Hence, I am not sure whether the strategy will work in Karnataka."

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