BJP Gets a New Captain
Opportunities & Challenges Ahead
Marking a generational shift in BJP, 50 year old Amit Shah has taken over as its new president. Apart from his organisational skills, Shah, who has a unique record of not losing a single poll out of the 28 elections he fought at various levels since 1989, shares a rare chemistry with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which would play a crucial role in shaping Government-Party relations in the days to come.
The first and foremost challenge before Shah is to build a team which has less of armchair politicians and more of mass leaders who can reach out to the grass roots. It is important to ensure that new faces are brought to the national team from the states, particularly those where the party is yet to make a mark for itself. As it seeks to fill up the vacuum caused by the exit of the Congress at the national level, it needs people with more exposure to the public at large rather than television studios. Shah needs to keep this in mind while filling up the vacancies caused by the migration of several leaders to the Government. A rejig involving leadership changes in the front organisations, morchas, cells, etc is called for urgently to consolidate the gains of Mandate 2014 and cater to the new challenges.
Apart from directing and supervising agitational politics in Opposition ruled states, the party needs to reach out to its voters through seminars, workshops, public meetings, etc to reach out to the people at large as also intellectuals about the programmes and policies of the NDA Government and to counter the propaganda of the Opposition. The party needs to have a strong coordination mechanism with the Government to ensure that the promises made in the election manifesto are implemented to the maximum possible extent. It is gladdening to note that the RSS has deputed two of its key functionaries Ram Madhav and Shiv Prakash to the party which would not only facilitate better communication between the RSS and BJP but also the cadres and workers at the grass roots level.
Of course, major electoral challenges await Shah this year and next year in Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir. While the party has been successful in these states in the Lok Sabha elections, with the new Government going in for bold yet unpopular steps to revive the economy, the party has a mammoth task at hand to tell and convince the people that the promised Achche Din (good days) are indeed on the way and these are minor hiccups. After the demise of Gopinath Munde in Maharashtra it is important to ensure that the Mahayuti combining key ally Shiv Sena, RPI (Athavale) and others maintains its winning streak. Any hiccups would be suicidal as the ruling Congress-NCP combine goes on a reservation spree, dishing out benefits to one and all, from Marathas to Muslims. There should be no scope for any mutual doubt or suspicion.
Another major challenge would be winning Delhi (whenever elections are held), a traditional Jan Sangh stronghold, which experimented with the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party in the last elections. With Dr Harsh Vardhan moving out to the Centre and a new city unit President taking charge, the Delhi team also needs a total overhaul before it enters the poll fray. For an electorate yearning for instant outcome, the Modi magic alone won’t be helpful. The polls apart, Shah also has to expand the party’s footprint in the hitherto virgin areas, particularly South and North-East. Shah will have to make it a prestige issue that the party make its debut in the Kerala Assembly whenever the elections are held. With a strong RSS cadre and an electorate frustrated with the antics of both the ruling UDF and the Opposition LDF, God’s own country is looking forward to a viable alternative, which the BJP should occupy, given its leverage in Delhi.
In its quest for reaching out to newer pastures and constituencies including the minorities, the BJP has to ensure that it does not lose sight of its ideological moorings. It also should not allow the Government to dilute or compromise on the party’s core agenda even if its materialisation takes time. At stake is the faith and trust of millions of the core constituency, who have stood by the party through thick and thin. It is the ruling party which is always at the receiving end whichever party is in power. Shah not only has to buck this trend but turn it into an asset.
KG Suresh (The writer is a senior journalist)