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'Urban Naxal supporters' to 'Modi roko abhiyaan': BJP has zeroed in on its 2019 poll pitch

The BJP seems to have picked up on the most emotive issues to connect with voters. Whether the voters buy it the second time round is still to be seen.

 |  5-minute read |   11-09-2018
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At the end of its two-day National Executive, the BJP passed a resolution, to build a 'New India' by 2022.

The resolution was presented by senior party leader and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Briefing the media, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said a lot of developmental work has taken place in the last four years, and a 'New India' will be formed by 2022. "This government has vision, passion and imagination, and the works of this government can be seen. By 2022, India will be free of terrorism, casteism, communalism and nobody will be homeless,"

In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, as he raced his way to become the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, then Gujarat's Chief Minister, exhorted the voters to give him 60 months to fix the nation's ills. Lamenting the 60 years of misrule by the previous governments at the centre, Modi asked for just a fraction to usher in 'acche din'.

A tall claim indeed.

But the voters bought the promise hook, line and sinker, the Modi-led BJP won 282 out of 543 seats, reaching a majority on its own, a feat achieved by any political party only after 30 years, when Congress last won 414 seats in a 533-seat Parliament, in the wake of Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984.

A little more than four years later, the ruling party finds itself in a quandary.

modi-meet_091118045935.jpgPM Modi and BJP President Amit Shah during the BJP's National Executive meeting, in New Delhi. (Photo Credit: PTI)

With the promised 'achhe din' nowhere in sight, and with barely months to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP finds itself faced with anti-incumbency, a worsening agrarian crisis, farmers' protests, a free-falling rupee, rising fuel prices, a dismal job market and a more or less united opposition.

With no one left to pin the blame on, the BJP - ruling 20 states, almost 70 per cent of the country - seems to have decided to shift the goalpost.

Instead of the promised 60 months, the new timeline for development seems to be 2022.

The rider is, the BJP has to be voted back to power.

The BJP understands its safest bet is to make 2019 a presidential contest. The party understands the prime minister's stature and personal charisma would dwarf most regional satraps, in a one-to-one contest.

modi-story_091118045010.jpgThe BJP knows the PM is the tallest leader in the country. (Photo Credit: PTI)

Even Congress President Rahul Gandhi would find it tough to take on the PM. Besides the rare jhappi, as witnessed in Parliament.

Instead of going to the polls on the basis of development, like it did in 2014, the party seems to be focusing more on Modi versus the rest. The narrative seems to be how a motley group of political parties, with no common political or ideological understanding, have all come together to ensure Modi doesn't succeed in his goal of making a new resurgent India.

This is much like Indira Gandhi, who, while taking on the might of the united Opposition in 1971, decided to use it to her advantage - she coined the slogan, "Ye kahte hain Indira hatao, main kahati hoon, garibi hatao." In an almost similar vein, the BJP's resolution said the Opposition was running a 'Modi roko abhiyaan' (Stop Modi campaign), while the PM was trying to free the country from poverty, casteism, terrorism and communalism by 2022.

opposition-story_091118045108.jpgThe BJP's resolution said the Opposition was running a 'Modi roko abhiyaan'. (Photo Credit: PTI)

What the Prime Minister's policies are that will achieve this plan, there is not much clarity on.

So, instead of a report card of its achievements, the ruling party seems to be extending another timeline.

Another strategy seems to be to pitch the BJP as a nationalistic party that was for 'making India' against the Opposition that is interested in 'breaking India'.

Speaking at the National Executive, BJP President Amit Shah endorsed the recent arrest of Left activists and blasted the Congress and the rest of the Opposition for supporting 'urban Naxals' for their own petty votebank politics, even at the cost of national security. Talking about the seriousness of the charges against the activists, Shah took on the Opposition for apparently shamelessly ignoring the threat to the PM's life and siding with those who are working against the nation.

varavara_091118045221.jpgBJP President Amit Shah has accused the Opposition of supporting 'urban Naxals'. (Photo Credit: PTI)

Another issue rankling the BJP had been the protests over the SC/ST Act. PM Modi, while addressing the meet, accused the Opposition of 'fighting on lies, speaking a new lie every day'. The BJP feels the opposition earlier supported the Dalit protests against the change in the Act, and later, when Parliament retained the original provisions of the Bill, they are supporting the upper caste groups in their protests.

The party hopes to counter this narrative by pitching for a united Hindu vote bank. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, while speaking at the World Hindu Conference, also attended by India's Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, spoke about the need for the Hindu community to come together despite their differences, saying even a Lion or a Royal Bengal Tiger can be brought down by a pack of 'wild dogs'.

Who were the 'wild dogs' in this reference - and how conducive is this language in a democratic set-up, is best left to individual interpretation.

bhagwat_091118045340.jpgRSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat pitched for a united Hindu votebank at the recent World Hindu Conference. (Photo: PTI)

Both the PM and the RSS chief were basically pitching for a cohesive Hindu vote bank. Something the BJP is finding increasingly difficult to get with the coming together of the opposition parties.

While the final contours of the BJP's election strategy are still being fine-tuned, the party seems to have already decided the broad outline of its gameplan.

With barely months to go for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, the BJP seems to have zeroed in on the most emotive issues to connect with the voters.

Whether the voters buy it the second time round is still to be seen.

Also read: In their charges at each other, both Congress and BJP are right

Writer

Saif Ullah Khan Saif Ullah Khan @saifizm

Deputy editor, DailyO

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