Prime Minister Narendra Modi reset the political discourse on Sunday, asking BJP workers to focus solely on development and not get distracted by the Opposition’s attempts to deflect attention with irrelevant issues.
Modi flagged his agenda at the end of the two-day national executive in the Capital, in which senior party and ministerial colleague M Venkaiah Naidu eulogised him as “god’s gift for India” and the “messiah of the poor”.
Party functionaries agreed with Naidu but the Prime Minister’s message clearly underlined his immediate challenge -- crucial assembly polls in four non-BJP-ruled states this April-May after crushing defeats in Bihar and Delhi.
“The Prime Minister told party workers that his government’s sole focus is vikas, vikas and vikas (development),” Union home minister Rajnath Singh said.
Modi wants BJP workers to fan out and spread the message of a corruption-free government and development to the masses. Instead of getting involved in controversies and non-issues, he asked them to become soldiers of nation-building, Singh said.
Naidu listed Modi’s presence on the Time magazine list of 30 most influential people, his 18 million Twitter followers and his soon-to-be unveiled wax statue at Madame Tussauds as global recognition of his achievements.
But Modi focused on broadcasting information about his government’s accomplishments since he rode to power in 2014 on the promise to turn around the economy and bring overall development. But 22 months on, he is saddled with allegations of perpetrating religious intolerance and hegemony, and of being anti-Dalit and anti-farmer.
A good show in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the April-May election is crucial for the party to recover from its Bihar blushes and the inability to iron out differences with alliance partner PDP in Jammu and Kashmir.
There is a perception that the government’s pro-poor and farmer-friendly policies and initiatives such as the Jan Dhan Yojana, rural electrification schemes and cleanliness programmes are not being adequately communicated to the masses, with controversies overshadowing the political discourse.
The Prime Minister attempted to change the narrative as he urged party workers to stay on the development agenda course.
He cited the example of Mahatma Gandhi, who used to take up ground issues and link them to India’s fight for Independence, Singh said.
“Our leadership, policy and ideology are different from others because we have decisive leadership,” Singh said.
Modi’s focus on development counterbalanced the BJP’s political resolution at its national executive that reaffirmed the party’s commitment to “nationalism, national unity and integrity”.
The BJP said nationalism guides its belief and those refusing to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai are disrespecting the Constitution. The party is caught in a nationalism debate after JNU student leaders were charged with sedition for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans and AIMIM parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi commented on March 13 that he won’t chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai even if a knife is put to his throat.