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BJP’s mission 2019: Win more seats than 2014, focus on Modi govt’s achievements, says Amit Shah

Amit Shah asked the party not to fret about the opposition grand alliance in the making, noting that the BJP had individually defeated each of its prospective constituents in past elections.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2018 13:27 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BJP meet,national executive meet,BJP
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) with BJP president Amit Shah.(PTI File Photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will contest next year’s general election on the strength of its performance in the past five years, both on the social welfare and economic fronts, party president Amit Shah said on Saturday, making light of the “grand alliance” the Opposition is seeking to stitch together.

Shah, 53, set BJP the target of emerging from the 2019 parliamentary election with a margin that’s wider than that of 2014, when it clinched a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha for the first time in 30 years. The BJP had then won 282 seats out of 543 Lok Sabha seats.

In a speech at a meeting of the BJP’s National Executive, Shah asked the party not to fret about the opposition grand alliance in the making, noting that the BJP had individually defeated each of its prospective constituents in past elections. He called the proposed coalition an illusion based on falsehood.

The National Executive meeting affords an opportunity for the BJP to take stock of the political situation and discuss strategy for the elections in the face of Opposition attempts to cobble together a broad-based coalition to take on the ruling National Democratic Alliance. Even arch rivals such as the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh have been in talks to contest the next parliamentary election together to stop the BJP’s juggernaut.

The opposition has focused on issues such as suspected irregularities in a deal to purchase fighter jets from Dassault Aviation of France, perceived farm distress and alleged economic mismanagement in the implementation of polices such as the demonetisation in 2016 and the goods and services tax.

Shah spoke in detail about welfare schemes initiated by the government such as a health insurance scheme for 500 million people, minimum support prices for key crops offering a 50% return over the farmers’ cost of production and Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfers. Meanwhile, India has overtaken France as the world’s sixth biggest economy. Many thousands of shell companies have been shut down and black money has been curbed, he said.

A long-pending demand for constitutional status to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) commission has been fulfilled, Shah said. “The poor, OBCs, women and youth – every section has been touched,” defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman quoted Shah as telling the BJP leaders.

“We will contest 2019 on the basis of our organization’s strengths and the achievements of the (Narendra) Modi government,” said Shah, who together with Prime Minister Modi will be leading the BJP into next year’s polls. “The fragrance of the Modi government has spread all over, our leadership has charisma. These will help us in 2019,” Shah said. Modi also made a brief intervention, asking the party not to walk into the Opposition’s trap on issues.

“Remain focused on our own issues. We will emerge victorious,” a BJP leader who attended the meeting quoted the Prime Minister as saying. Modi will make a detailed speech on the concluding day of the conclave on Sunday. The BJP executive also adopted a resolution on the issue of farmers, congratulating the government for its pro-farmers policies. “Doubling farm income by 2022 is not a slogan for us. We are working with full commitment on achieving this,” Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said.

The party decided to defer its organisational elections due later this year. Shah’s term as BJP president will expire in January, but the party decided that he will continue to lead the BJP until after the next Parliamentary elections. Shah replaced Rajnath Singh as the party president soon after it came to power in May 2014; Singh quit his post following his inclusion in Prime Minister Modi’s Cabinet. He was then elected party president in January 2016.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted after the BJP’s meet: “BJP’s stoic silence on real issues like petro hike, inflation, falling rupee, failing economy and Rafale Scam has once again proved its indifference to sufferings of people.”

Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace said: “While Amit Shah claims that the party will campaign on the Modi government’s record since 2014, the truth is more subtle.”

“On black money and high-decibel welfare schemes, the BJP will tout its record under Modi. On the economy, however, the BJP recognises its record is mixed and would like to get compared to the low bar of UPA-2, rather than the high bar it had set for itself in 2014.” The reference was to the second term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

Vaishnav added that there was good reason that the target date for the culmination of most government schemes is 2022–well into a second term. “This allows the government to say – look what we’ve begun; it is transformational but we need another term to finish what we’ve begun; don’t changes horses midstream. They can then campaign on finishing unfinished business.”

The two-day conclave started with Shah’s inaugural address to 300-odd top leaders, including state CMs and ministers. The BJP leadership will discuss issues, including impending assembly polls in five states -- Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana -- and the national election in 2019.

At the meeting, Shah launched a no-holds-barred attack on the Congress, saying that while the BJP was “making India,” the opposition parties were “breaking India”.

Shah congratulated Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was in the audience, for taking a tough stand against “urban naxals”, following the recent arrest of five activists for alleged links with Maoists. Shah said those arrested are accused of buying arms, providing financial help to Maoists and destabilising the country, but opposition parties are defending them.

He also took a dig at Congress leader Manmohan Singh, who had recently said that the Modi government had failed on all fronts, saying that while Singh follows his party, Modi leads his.

He reiterated the BJP’s support for the National Register of Citizens in Assam, which excluded four million applicants. Shah said the party will return to power in all states where it is already in office and should aspire to benefit from anti-incumbency in states such as West Bengal and Telangana. “We should not be complacent and should work to ensure a bigger victory...,” he, however, said.

First Published: Sep 08, 2018 23:28 IST