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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

The secret to BJP’s ‘all are welcome’ mode | Opinion

The lesson that Modi delivered to the BJP in 2013 remained an effective tool for the party’s during the 2019 parliamentary polls and, even, afterwards.

opinion Updated: Aug 14, 2019 14:47 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah.(HT image)

It was a bright sunny morning in the winter of 2013 when Narendra Modi, then prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, told his party leaders what was missing in the campaign for 2014 national election.

“During Atal BiharI Vajpayee’s days in power, we used to hear that so and so has joined the BJP,” Modi told a small group of BJP leaders over a cup of tea. “We haven’t heard any such news in last 10 years.”

Over the next several weeks, Bollywood personalities, bureaucrats, political rivals, poets and others joined the BJP, creating a buzz around the party that finally stormed into Raisina Hills, giving India its first majority government after 1989.

The lesson that Modi delivered to the BJP in 2013 remained an effective tool for the party’s during the 2019 parliamentary polls and, even, afterwards.

Three months into Modi’s return as the Prime Minister with greater numbers has seen the BJP going for targeted hunting in states where it aims to leave a bolder footprint.

People have changed party affiliations in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and the northeast. Many others crossed over to the treasury benches in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, where the BJP lacks a majority.

What has the BJP tried to achieve with such tactics. The answer has three angles – strategical, tactical and psychological.

First, the ruling party wants to keep alive the buzz around the BJP with influential personalities joining the party. Being in and returning to power has its own risks, the gravest of them being that the party may slip into an ‘inactive’ mode. The strategy is to keep the cadre energized with small doses of enthusiasm that emanates from a sentiment that BJP has not reached its prime and remains an attractive destination for many people, including sworn political enemies. This is tactical.

Second, every joining adds muscle to the BJP’s structure. This is a strategic move to import talent in areas where the BJP lacks it. The tactic to create buzz around the party helps this strategy as well. An impressive show in the Lok Sabha election in states such as West Bengal and Telangana, and the BJP’s ability to survive a a Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in Uttar Pradesh, has attracted several rival leaders who switched loyalties for a secured future. In return, the BJP benefits from the critical mass these leaders bring in.

Third, and the last, the tactical and strategic move of the BJP is intended to leave a deep psychological impact on its rivals who are already down after a drubbing in the parliamentary election. The vertical split in the parliamentary party of Telugu Desam Party prompted its chief N Chandrababu Naidu to cut short his trip abroad and return. The merger of 10 out of 13 MLAs of the Sikkim Democratic Front with the BJP made it the biggest opposition party in the hill state. The desertion in the Congress camp has helped the BJP create a narrative that the principal opposition is in complete disarray.

The big challenge before the opposition parties is to not only to regroup themselves but also find a counter to the three-pronged attack from the BJP. It will be easier said than done.

First Published: Aug 14, 2019 14:11 IST

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