BJP’s old Ashoka Road headquarters to be new poll ‘war room’

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) war room for the 2019 parliamentary election is the party’s former HQ in Lutyens’ Delhi, 11 Ashoka Road, two leaders familiar with the matter said. The bungalow housed the party’s headquarters for decades before it was shifted to a swanky, five-storied building on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, central Delhi, in February.

“The war room will plan and execute the campaign for the next parliamentary election,” one of the two leaders said on condition of anonymity.

A third BJP leader said, asking not to be identified, that there is a feeling among some members of the party that the new HQ has not been lucky for it and that the war room for 2019 shouldn’t be located there.

After moving to the new building, the BJP lost the bypolls in Phulpur, Gorakhpur and Kairana in Uttar Pradesh; fell short of a majority in Karnataka; had to withdraw support to the alliance government in J&K; lost the Telugu Desam Party as an ally in Andhra Pradesh; and saw its relationship with Shiv Sena touch a new low.

The party has still not vacated its old HQ and because “we ran the party from there till very recently, the infrastructure already exists there to run a full scale war room for a national election,” the first person added.

Union minister Ananth Kumar’s bungalow in Tughlak Crescent was the BJP’s war room during LK Advani’s prime ministerial bid in 2009. A similar facility was set up at union minister Shripad Yesso Naik’s Lodhi Estate bungalow for Narendra Modi’s hugely successful prime ministerial campaign in 2014.

A separate digital operations centre was set up at the BJP’s Ashoka Road headquarters, under the watch of Arvind Gupta, now the CEO of the MyGovIndia platform that seeks to connect people and the government.

Two government officials confirmed on condition of anonymity that the BJP had not vacated the premises although its HQ has moved.

About 300 people will be deployed in the war room, which will immediately start working on a 360 degree campaign targeting more than 300 million voters, the first BJP leader said.

A BJP spokesperson declined to comment.

The old party HQ’s choice may also have a more prosaic reason — location.

“Some of us wanted to stay back at Ashoka Road office as it was more convenient and centrally located. The party leadership, however, decided we would move out,” the second BJP leader said.

Indeed, “relocating the war room at Ashoka Road could be more because of convenience and logistical reasons,” the third leader admitted.

Updated: July 26, 2018 — 8:33 am