By Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay
If what I have witnessed on Thursday after driving through hundreds of kilometres cutting across several constituencies of Western Uttar Pradesh, holds true in the rest of the state and has a traction effect on neighbouring areas, it appears then that Bharatiya Janata Party presidential nominee, Narendra Modi, has begun his march to 7, Race Course Road with more than a steady canter.
In one polling station after another – both in urban and rural areas — one witnessed micro-level booth management by the steel frame of the Sangh Parivar, integrated so seamlessly that it was difficult to differentiate between members of the BJP, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
It was evident that this is truly a battle in which the entire Parivar is united and have cast away for the moment whatever misgivings they may have had for Modi in the run up to the polls.
The turnout has been high, polarisation on community lines could not have been sharper, the motivation of the BJP workers is at an unprecedented level, and the morale of the election agents of non-BJP candidates was at the lowest.
In every polling station in areas where the majority of voters were Hindus, there was virtually no one on the desk of candidates form the Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and Congress.
When I buttonholed one lady and a man sitting on one table in the area earmarked for polling agents, they turned out to be representatives of the SP and Congress.
I asked what they were doing together. The lady sheepishly said that they were keeping each other company because there was little else to do.
At the adjacent table, agents of the BJP candidate, Sanjiv Baliyan, infamous for his role during last year’s communal riots furiously searched through voter lists. The booths were open areas and agents of BJP candidates milled around, exchanged notes and updated each other regarding voter turnout. They had minute by minute record of the number of people who voted.
Booth level agents of other parties did not protest at election officers turning a blind eye as there was no protest from agents of other parties. They were in fact acting as double-agents. As a result, multiple voting was fairly routine at several booth in both rural and urban areas. I was a witness to incidents who details cannot be revealed because it may compromise people who assisted me to get a ringside view of what was happening.
Events like polling officers not scrutinising EVICs, not insisting on alternate identification papers in its absence, not matching the faces on the election slip with the person standing in front to cast their votes and finally not dabbing the index finger with indelible ink. Even as I write these lines there are memories of fingers of both hands dabbed with the black mark.
All this has been possible because of a perceptible wave. People did not turn out to vote for any candidate or a party, they voted for Modi. As I returned to Muzaffarnagar city, a huge crowd had assembled outside the BJP campaign office. Celebrations had already broken out!
This may eventually turn out to be premature, but what was visible in the embedded position I had through the day, made it appear that this could well turn out to be bigger than a wave.
Of course, there has also been high turnout at election stations in Muslim majority areas. There were reports through the day that similar takeover was happening there in favour of either of the non-BJP parties, mostly either BSP or SP. This further motivated BJP workers. Polling was at its fairest at elections booth located in colonies that have a mixed electorate. But then these are few and far in between.
Such a level of micro-management has been possible for the BJP because the RSS lent its entire organisational frame. RSS manages UP through units in three Prants or Regions of which Meerut is one of the significant ones. This unit is further divided into six Vibhags or sub-regions: Ghaziabad, Meerut, Saharanpur, Bijnore, Moradabad, Bulandshahr and Muzaffarnagar.
Swayamsevaks of each Vibhag were out in full strength through the day coordinating with members of the other affiliates of the RSS. These Vibhag level units get broken down to the lowest adminsitative units and micro-planning preceded the management that was visible. This was clearly a poll in this region as a virtual referendum on Modi.