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BJP’s Mission 350 for 2019 is ambitious, but Modi-Amit Shah duo can make it happen

The goal of winning 350 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections set by BJP president Amit Shah appears to be a stretch target the kind corporate CEOs set for their managers

analysis Updated: Aug 29, 2017 11:24 IST
BJP 350 target,2019 Lok Sabha Elections,2019 General Elections
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP President Amit Shah in New Delhi. The opposition has no coherent narrative, and remains stuck in its “secular” speechifying, when the BJP has made the cynical Muslim vote bank strategy irrelevant.(PTI)

The corporate world revels in “stretch targets”. The CEO sets an extremely high goal — a pole vault height for a high jumper— for the top executives. These men or women then give the middle managers their own stretch targets. The middle managers do likewise to their underlings.

Let’s say the company’s current revenue is Rs 50. The CEO sets a target for the next financial year at Rs 100. The top managers tell their executives to generate Rs 140. These people in turn ask their subordinates to yank revenues up to Rs 180. All of these seem impossible targets, but everyone tries their hardest, because there are huge performance bonuses to be gained if they can indeed get revenues up to this level.

Ultimately, revenues end up at Rs 85, which is possibly what the CEO actually had in mind when he set the target. But sometimes, depending on how bright or motivated the executives are, and how weak or stupid the competitors, the revenues actually hit Rs 100.

Some days ago, at a meeting of party leaders, BJP president Amit Shah set a target of 350 seats for the 2019 general elections. The party has 282 seats in the current Lok Sabha. To attain 350, the party has to increase its tally by 68 seats, or a full 24 per cent.

It’s a very tough task. In 2014, the BJP won 190 out of a total of 207 seats in nine states, including all seats in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi and Uttarakhand. It can’t do any better in these four states. In Uttar Pradesh, it won a phenomenal 71 out of 80 seats. It may be difficult to hold on to this number. Even if there is no grand united opposition alliance, 71 is a hard number to defend. Though it’s not beyond the realm of possibility, given the results of the UP assembly polls.

In 2014, the BJP won 27 out of the 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh, and 12 out of 14 in Chhattisgarh. Both states have had BJP governments for more than a decade. According to news reports, Shah asked the assembled party leaders to study if there are anti-incumbency factors at play in these states, and if so, suggest how to counter them.

On the positive side for the BJP, since 2014, the party has made deep inroads into the North East. It will definitely gain seats in the region. It will also raise its tally in Karnataka (17 out of 28 in 2014), Odisha (one out of 21), Maharashtra (28 out of 43), and Andhra Pradesh (two out of 25). Blatant minority appeasement in Telangana and West Bengal will help the BJP, though more in Telangana than in the eastern state where Mamata Didi seems set to rule till retirement — and politicians never retire. In Bengal, BJP is now the principal opposition party; Congress and the Left Front have been decimated, as the results of the recent civic polls in the state indicate.

While we were sipping our single malts, massive Hindu consolidation has been taking place across the nation. The SLOB (Secular Leftist Outrage Brigade) may rave and rant, but the truth is out there, if you care to look for it. We are living through some watershed moments. You may not like it, but you cannot but acknowledge.

The opposition has no coherent narrative, and remains stuck in its “secular” speechifying, when the BJP has made the cynical Muslim vote bank strategy irrelevant. For evidence, look at Assam, where the party could not have got a three-fourth majority in the assembly without a large number of indigenous Muslims (as opposed to the Bangladeshi migrants) voting for it. And every time Rahul Gandhi opens his mouth, he wins a few more thousand votes for the BJP.

By my amateur calculations, in the best-case scenario, the BJP can get a maximum of 305-310 seats in 2019. Which itself will be an outstanding achievement, and should satisfy the stretch target-setting CEO, Amit Shah. But the Modi-Shah combine is an election-winning machine and that machine can never be underestimated. Also, a day is a long time in politics, and anything can happen. Anything at all, in the next 500 days. The pendulum could swing either way.

Sandipan Deb is Editorial Director, Swarajya (swarajyamag.com)

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Aug 28, 2017 17:13 IST