With a marvelous victory in Assam in 2016 Assembly Polls, the BJP has cracked the northeastern challenge, and has delivered a knock-out punch to the Congress in the state.
The BJP coalition has won a comfortable victory with 86 seats in the 126-member Assam Assembly. It has also sweetened Modi government’s second anniversary celebrations.
However, making inroads into Assam was never easy and there was no guarantee of winning. To achieve its ambitions, the party had roped in Rajat Sethi, a public policy graduate from Harvard University, to assist the state unit in preparing a vision document.
Sethi, 30, who has emerged as the Prashant Kishor for BJP in Assam, agreed to work for the party and shifted his base from New Delhi to Guwahati.
Sethi was ably assisted by Shubhrastha, 28, who had worked closely with Kishor in Gandhinagar. She was the co-founder of Citizens for Accountable Governance, which helped Modi win the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. She also helped Nitish Kumar in the last Bihar polls.
According to Sethi, the party won because of Sarbananda Sonowal’s clean image, party’s formidable social coalition of various communities and tribes along with Himanta Biswa Sarma’s dynamism. Sarma has done most of the ground work in rallying support for the party and crafting the strategic alliances with the Bodoland People’s Front and the AGP.
According to Seethi and Shubhrastha, they are “political entrepreneurs” driven by ideology, not “mercenaries”. They feel that his sets them apart from strategist Kishor.
According to Shubhrastha, she won’t work for Congress even if she was offered Rs 1000 crore.
Sethi, who hails from Kanpur and has pursued B Tech from IIT-Kharagpur, said he always liked “Indian values” and even on campus, he started a Hindi cell.
In the US, he studied at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Harvard Kennedy School with a focus on campaign management.
The duo, who worked at a rented flat in Guwahati, said they worked at the micro level. They were asked by Madhav to mobilise people in 32 districts, 25,000 booths.
“Imagine, the BJP had five MLAs, but Amit Shah and Madhav kept saying we can form the next government,” said Sethi.
They also used computer and mobile software to get real-time information on the political landscape in Assam and engaged 400 youths to keep them up-to-date.
According to Sethi, the act of Congress putting up the posters of the Godhra train and the victim, Qutubuddin Ansari, backfired.
As part of their strategy, they led Himanta address more rallies than Sonowal, and used Bhupendra Hazarika’s poems to connect with people, and did not target Tarun Gogoi directly.