Shah of strategies plays ‘Maha’ trump card, Bhupendra Yadav, to bolster BJP fortunes

New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party’s key strategist, Bhupendra Yadav, who has worked behind the scenes in five states and delivered every single time, was back on the battleground in poll-bound Maharashtra when BJP Chief Amit shah decided to field his trusted general to take on the opposition “forces” in the saffron bastion.

Yadav’s first big assignment was as the election in-charge of Rajasthan in December 2013 where he doubled up as Vasundhara Raje’s campaign manager, running a massive state-wide Suraj Sankalp Yatra to create a connect with the masses. The incumbent Congress government stood decimated as Raje registered an unprecedented majority. Since then, Yadav has helmed the party in Jharkhand, Gujarat, UP, and Bihar. While the BJP recorded big wins in all the states except Bihar, where the party despite failing to make an impact managed to form the government along with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), Yadav’s stature in the BJP has only increased as the time has passed and interestingly, he is not considered the fighter of “bigger battles”.

Such is Yadav’s precise grip on election mood in any state of the country, that only he comes to mind of the BJP’s strategy executors. A confident Yadav has his job cut out. A strong alliance not only with the Shiv Sena but also “humoring” the smaller parties, candidate selection, a catchy campaign for Fadnavis and tapping disgruntled forces from the Opposition remain his top priorities.  

But the major concern for BJP was not opposition but their own relationship with its alliance party i.e. Shiv Sena. For the past five years, BJP and Shiv Sena contested the election together, however, over a time they had minor spats between. During the five-year term in government, media kept speculating that at any time, the alliance could be called off. Five years went by and then came time for LS polls and the BJP managed Shiv Sena. BJP President Amit Shah said then that during assembly elections, BJP and Shiv Sena will undergo a 50 % seat sharing. The tension eased and the two parties worked together in the LS polls.

However, later senior leadership in the BJP received feedback that the saffron party could contest the election on its own and need not fear Shiv Sena. This is where the core strategy formation was initiated and the right man to handle a volatile situation for easy ride through troubled waters was much needed.

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man”.  Amit Shah’s trusted deputy – Bhupendra Yadav – was thus thrown into the battle to ensure that the BJP came out victories. It was baptism through fire. Like every battle, Yadav had several “fronts” opened against him. Stability with Shiv Sena and other smaller parties was one such front. However, after closely observing the “tactics” of mastermind strategist Amit Shah, Yadav also picked up a thing or two to carry out his own brand of “surgical strike”.

A “cunning” politician, Yadav ensured that only 124 of the 288 assembly seats go in the kitty of the Shiv Sena from the BJP Shiv Sena alliance. On the remaining 164 seats, the BJP would contest. However, the emphasis was also given to smaller parties working in Maharashtra and they were given around a dozen seats to contest, on the condition that they contest the election under BJP’s banner. Yadav took this calculated step so as to ensure that in case Shiv Sena and smaller parties reach a major number and the BJP somehow failed to perform as expected, then in case the Shiv Sena and other parties manage a far greater number than BJP alone, at least the tilt of power – who will be the next CM – won’t shift out of BJP’s hand.  

Interestingly, Yadav also knew that since Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aditya is also contesting the elections, the Shiv Sena would be extra cautious and would not want Aditya to lose the polls. Knowing well that the BJP could make or break the election for Thackerey junior, Yadav clearly stated that either the Shiv Sena contests the election on BJP’s terms or else the BJP would go ahead on its own.

It is said that there is no better friend than your opponent’s fear, and Yadav, giving an exemplary example of his mature political mind, ensured that the Shiv Sena’s fear of falling out of power, was properly “harvested”.