Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) nationwide membership campaign at the party headquarters in Delhi on Saturday, stressing an inclusive agenda and asking the cadre to reach out to every section of the society.
The drive aims to triple the BJP's numbers from the current 35 million — which would make it the world’s largest political organisation — at a time when the party is riding high on its successes in the April-May Lok Sabha elections and the recently held assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana.
This is the first time the BJP has set such an ambitious membership target, far beyond the 20% benchmark of previous years, and the drive will go on till March 31. If it manages to meet its target, it would have overtaken the Communist Party of China, the world’s largest with nearly 87 million workers.
Addressing a gathering of party leaders and workers on the occasion, Modi said, "BJP should also come across as a diverse party. People from all strata of society should feel that we have a representative in this vase of flowers."
"The poor and illiterate should also feel that we are a part of this party. The organisation should be expanded in such a manner that it is representative of all and can fulfil the dreams of all," said the Prime Minister, who had harped on inclusive development and wellbeing of all during Lok Sabha election campaigns.
Modi also put emphasis on 'horizontal development' - which he described as reaching out to remote villages and ensuring at least one party member in every village - and 'vertical development' - which he described as strengthening of the organisation.
Earlier, delivering the introductory speech on the occasion, BJP national president Amit Shah Shah said, "It's an important and fortunate day for us because our membership drive will be launched by PM Modiji.
Delhi : PM Narendra Modi & BJP President Amit Shah at the launch of BJP membership drive at party headquarter pic.twitter.com/zpPuk8MNqF— ANI (@ANI_news) November 1, 2014
A smartphone in his hand, Modi became the first online member of the party. He was followed by Shah.
"To become the member of such a party is a matter of pride," Modi said, "Every member of the party is a representative of the people."
The Prime Minister added the BJP was one of the world's most important organisations and could even be a subject of study.
"The BJP is one of the most important organisations in the world. Yet we have never positioned it like that. To be a member of BJP is to live the disciplined life it demands... every member of BJP is a representative of the people."
Asking BJP workers to toil hard, he said, "Put your everything into it... Like you do during an election campaign... It (the drive) should become an inspiration for parties across the world."
Reaching out to the young and educated India, a considerable section of which is believed to be averse to politics, Modi asserted, "Politics is not dirty. If it were, Mahatma Gandhi would not have ventured into it."
Modi said that getting membership of the BJP earlier was difficult but it had become easier now due to the digital revolution adopted by the party.
The BJP has launched a toll-free number — 18002662020 — to facilitate the drive, laying stress on new-age technology that reaped it rich dividends in the Lok Sabha election campaign. Renewal of membership through SMS is also possible.
The BJP's dependence on technology in the drive prompted Modi to describe his party as 'Digital BJP'.
The saffron party expects three to four times increase in the number of its members in every state. The drive that started Saturday will continue till March 31, 2015.
The BJP, which was able to take the 'achche din (good days)' slogan to every nook and corner of the nation in the run-up to the general elections, coined a new catchphrase for its membership drive: 'Saath aaye, desh banaye (Come together, build the country)'.
Modi said the politics of mass agitation was over as people today wanted political workers to play a vital role in solving their daily problems. Incidentally, the last few years of UPA rule had witnessed a series of mass agitations, reflecting people’s anger on various issues.
BJP workers are required to renew their membership every six years and the new membership would be valid for 2015-21.
The party plans to prepare a database of members, link them to BJP booths in their localities and hold regular meetings.
“Review meetings have taken place. Party workers are excited about the programme. They have set a target to increase membership by at least three-fold,” BJP president Shah said.
(with agency inputs)