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The BJP gets off the blocks for 2019 elections

The BJP has been in election mode for some time now — party president Amit Shah has visited most of the states in the past few months— and the meeting on Tuesday should be seen in this context.

editorials Updated: Aug 30, 2018 20:50 IST
Hindustan Times
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union minister of home affairs Rajnath Singh and BJP national president Amit Shah during the BJP chief ministers' council meeting in New Delhi, August 28(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

A meeting of the Prime Minister, the BJP president, some senior ministers, and chief ministers of BJP-ruled states on Tuesday discussed the possible contours of the party’s campaign for 2019.

First, it was decided at the meeting that the BJP and the larger National Democratic Alliance, of which the party is a part, will fight 2019 under the leadership of Narendra Modi. This shouldn’t surprise anyone but it is a reflection of Modi’s standing and stature, and also a rebuttal of any suggestion that there could be an alternative.

Second, the PM and the CMs also discussed the measures the government has taken to address the angst of key voter groups — farmers; people from the scheduled castes and tribes; and people from other backward classes. It is clear that the party will try and reach these constituencies with the message that it did something for them, just as it will try and highlight this government’s welfare programmes, including its flagship health insurance scheme that is to be launched next month (these too were discussed at the meeting).

Also discussed were the upcoming elections in three key states currently ruled by the BJP: Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.

The BJP has been in election mode for some time now — this newspaper pointed out that party president Amit Shah has visited most of the states in the past few months — and the meeting on Tuesday should be seen in this context. Since 2013, it has also become evident that the party has a better campaign machine than the Opposition.

The Opposition, which is hoping to put up a united front in 2019, needs to work on these three dimensions. The first concerns leadership, and not just because everyone now sees large elections as mano-a-mano contests (but also because there is no indication that the opposition parties will be able to come up with a consensus candidate).

The second concerns the messaging. A campaign focusing on the shortcomings of the incumbent will work (as it did in 2014), but only if the latter is incapable of shaping an alternative narrative. The opposition would therefore do well to develop a message around what it will do to address specific issues if it comes to power.

The third is simply having the resources to launch a campaign that is as intense as the BJP’s.

First Published: Aug 29, 2018 18:48 IST