Eye on 2019 elections, BJP asks MPs to reach out to Ayushman Bharat beneficiaries
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Eye on 2019 elections, BJP asks MPs to reach out to Ayushman Bharat beneficiaries

The BJP’s idea is to capture testimonials on video from Ayushman Bharat beneficiaries and use these in the Lok Sabha campaign.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2018 14:15 IST
New Delhi
BJP,Ayushman Bharat,Lok Sabha elections
PM Narendra Modi launched the Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme in September that aims to cover 100 million poor and vulnerable families in India. (PTI)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has asked its representatives in Parliament to reach out to beneficiaries of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s flagship health insurance scheme and learn about their experiences with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s team in the run-up to the launch of campaign for the 2019 elections, two leaders familiar with the plan said.

The idea is to capture testimonials on video from these beneficiaries and use these in the campaign. The BJP has 272 members in the Lok Sabha and 73 in the Rajya Sabha. A similar direction will soon go out to other elected representatives and office-bearers of the party, the two added, asking not to be identified.

Modi launched the Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme in September that aims to cover 100 million poor and vulnerable families in India. This means it will approximately have 500 million beneficiaries. Each household gets coverage up to Rs 5 lakh for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.

“We have asked BJP parliamentarians to meet beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat and record at least five videos of those who have benefitted from it,” one of the two leaders said. “These videos will be uploaded on the NaMo App and could be used as campaign material when Modi seeks re-election as prime minister in 2019.”

The NaMo App is a mobile-based application that takes its name from the first two letters of the Prime Minister’s first and second names, and allows users to receive messages and mails from Modi. The Prime Minister has frequently used this platform to interact with set of party workers and others during recent assembly election.

The BJP has already started targeting beneficiaries of its state as well as central welfare schemes as evident in its campaign in the ongoing assembly elections. It did so in all three states where it is in power — Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh (which have already gone to polls) and Rajasthan (which goes to polls shortly). Results are to be announced on December 11.

If BJP lawmakers can achieve the target, the party will end up with a large database of genuine testimonials about the performance of the prime minister, whose four years of rule has seen the BJP attempting an image makeover into a party which looks out for the socially and economically marginalised .

“We used models in the campaign to build a narrative in 2014. In 2019, we can have ‘real characters’ whose lives have changed because of Modi’s welfare programmes,” the second leader said. “These real characters will mostly be from socially and economically backwardsections.”

The party has also asked the lawmakers to get feedback on other “social security schemes such as rural housing, crop insurance…” according to a communique to them from HQ. It has also asked for video testimonials of these.

Experts are not sure this exercise will swing things in the favour of the BJP.

“What works in people’s court is not evidence, but sentiment. The sentiment is that Modicase is a non-starter; thus the need to create the evidence,” said Sidharth Mishra, president of the Centre for Reforms, Development and Justice. “But, don’t forget, sentiments override all evidence in people’s court.”

Gilles Verniers, assistant professor of political science at Ashoka University, feels any exercise would have been more meaningful if its purpose was to consult beneficiaries on ways to improve those schemes. “But, the publicity surrounding those events would prevent that from happening,” he adds.

But the BJP remains hopeful about its exercise with party leaders claiming that several beneficiaries of government schemes have converted into party supporters. According to the BJP, there are 220 million direct beneficiaries of different government schemes, and the Ayushman Bharat net will further increase this number.

Beneficiaries are central to BJP’s campaign for 2019, and it has taken several exercises at the government level to ensure a seamless delivery of the schemes and maximum enrollment. The party network is then used to connect with these people and seek support.

The BJP polled a total of 171.7 million votes in 2014. The thinking in the party HQ is that it goes into 2019 with a number of beneficiaries that’s much more than that.

First Published: Dec 05, 2018 07:05 IST