Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday hosted Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah and his team of national office bearers and election in-charges of states for a brainstorming session over dinner to plan for the battles ahead - the big one being the Lok Sabha polls, and the smaller battles in eight states in the run up to the 2019 General Election.
The BJP's 'voter connect' campaign would begin in earnest from January 14, which marks the end of the month-long 'inauspicious' 'khar-mas', also called 'mala-mas'. According to Hindu tradition, no new project is initiated during this month, which this year started from December 16 and ends on January 14.
The party is also looking towards the presentation of the Modi government's fifth and final Union Budget of its present term on February 1, which several in the party expect to be focused on rural areas, youth and women.
In his last 'Mann ki Baat' address of 2017 on December 31, the PM had spoken of the estimated 20 million new voters, 'the millennials', born in the 21st Century, who will become eligible to vote for the first time in 2019. The party plans to launch a 'Millennial App' to help first time voters get enrolled, and in the process reach out to them about Modi government's achievements.
Other elements of this 'voter connect' campaign are - polling booth connect, reaching out to college and university students and also encouraging blood donations on January 23, the birth anniversary of freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students' wing of BJP's ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has lost several recent university elections, and the party has felt the need to bolster its outreach to the youth, whose support had been key to Modi-led BJP's victory in 2014. After the Dalit protests in Maharashtra, and earlier ones in Gujarat and Rajasthan, a big focus of the campaign will be to reach out to Dalit youth in the run up to the birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar on April 14.
Assembly polls are scheduled in three northeastern states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland by March. Karnataka assembly polls are scheduled for April-May, and Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram go to polls by December.
The brainstorming session, according to sources, gave the PM an opportunity to receive feedback from party leadership and also brief them about his expectations. The meeting also reviewed the assembly wins in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and whether more effort was needed to take the government's schemes and policies to the people.
During the winter session of Parliament, the PM had asked all party Members of Parliament to download the Narendra Modi App on their phones and regularly interact with him. The App now has some restricted sections, open only to MPs, where they can interact directly with the PM.
Party sources said the effort was to get party MPs to take the various schemes and projects of the Modi government to the people. Party chief Shah has asked research teams to list the 106 schemes and projects that the Modi government has launched since coming to power in May 2014. Talking points on the schemes have been prepared and being distributed among MPs.
Thursday's dinner and brainstorming was the PM's way to acknowledge the hard work put in by party chief Shah and his team of office bearers, that has helped BJP win successive assembly polls since 2014. In 2017, with the exception of Punjab, the BJP formed governments in Manipur, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, and retained Goa and Gujarat.