Intro : The drive is part of a structured programme. We have just reached up to the first level by enrolling them as voluntary members. Now we will approach them, screen them and will select for personal contact. Out of that some will be imparted with training. Only then we will be able to convert them into our cadre.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is overwhelmed with the unprecedented response that it has received during the ongoing membership drive and the world record it has created. Making best use of the information technology, the Party, till April 1, 2015, had enrolled more than 9 crore members and the number is expected to set a new record till April 30 when the campaign is scheduled to conclude. At the time when the BJP is celebrating the achievement, there are reports in a section of the media questioning the outcome of the Drive. Amdist these reports Organiser Senior Correspondent Pramod Kumar spoke to BJP national vice president and co-incharge of the Membership Drive Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe to know the facts. He said the ultimate objective of the campaign is to win the hearts and cultivate the minds. It is not just adding the numbers. Excerpts:
- What was the strategy behind the whole campaign?
The campaign was basically to convert the electoral mandate into some kind of an organisational base. Therefore, when we have secured about 17 crore votes during the Lok Sabha elections, naturally it was expected that we should be able to convert a large section of our voters into the organisational base. In that context we decided to maximise our efforts and reach up to wherever we can—somewhere more than nine crore. That is how it started and went upon. I must also add that the strategy was also to build upon the unique characteristics of BJP amongst more than 1,500 political parties in India. We are easily the most well-organised, not dynasty but ideology driven and also the most Good Governance-friendly political party in the country and we tried to built upon these characteristics.
- How the strategy was executed?
The strategy execution was done basically ensuring the involvement of all our party workers. Undoubtedly, using the telephone has now become pretty much easier than it used to be. Obviously, our process of enrolment remained most seeker-friendly. Then it also had greater element of authenticity in it. It certainly is more genuine than traditional old ways of enrolment. It is more all inclusive and democratic. One now need not have to be dependent upon the BJP workers to have him or her enrolled. One can personally call a number and acquire the membership. One is not necessarily required to be obliged by somebody. So, with these features inbuilt in the entire mechanism we went to every nook and corner, locality and region. In a way, the unique profile of BJP as a political party with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah at the helm of affairs, we already had immense goodwill and easy technology seeker friendly system and open door approach helped us spread the wings.
- What is the outcome from different states?
Most of the states, which are traditionally our strongholds like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, etc demonstrated very well. In the states where we want to spread our influence like Kerala, West Bengal and even in Assam also the response is remarkable. In Bengal, people came forward to become members of the BJP. We also spread the message to every nook and corner of Assam. In Kerala several people came forward and said we are traditionally voters of the Communist Party, but now we would like to get your membership.
- You must have also noticed some weaknesses during the campaign?
When you make the mechanism very easy, it is also likely to become a little unserious. That is a kind of an in built threat. Besides, since this remains a first-of-its kind mega membership campaign, our rank and file was not accustomed to this and some also had certain doubts about it. People too were a little confused initially. But we eventually overcame that and spread the message effectively. Now I can look back and say it was a very seriously conducted campaign with several new and creative ideas roped in. Then our Karyakartas took every pain to ensure that the message goes out effectively. At the same time we also ensured that every section of the society is covered. So we conducted campaigns in colleges, slum areas, tribal hamlets, etc. Everywhere the response has been enthusiastic.
- There are some negative stories also in the media about the campaign. What do you say?
Anything new is normally looked at with some suspicion, which is an established practice. When a political party takes up something new, the element of suspicion gets double. So, it was bound to happen. But I don’t think we need to get unduly bothered by the negative media stories here and there. Largely, people have welcomed it. Our enrolment system was highly innovative. Never before any party had even dreamt of a campaign in this way. For the first time this kind of technology was implemented in this way. Now other parties also want to emulate us. This is also a kind of example of making people politically literate in a very easy manner. Now we are going to follow up with a ‘Mass Sampark and Training Campaigns’. We will take this to its logical end.
- The Congress has also recently launched an App to enroll new members. Is it imitation of the BJP?
In a way one can definitely say so, because we are the pioneers. Whosoever comes next, you can certainly say that they are the copycats. But I have my best wishes to them. They need to work hard to make their message reach the people.
- What is the mechanism to make newly enrolled members actually active for the party on the ground?
This is part of a structured programme. We have just reached up to the first level by enrolling them as voluntary members. Now we will approach them, screen them and will select, say 30 per cent of them or so, for personal contact. Out of that some percentage will be decided to take to the third level, which is training. After imparting them training we will be able to convert them into our cadres. Through enrolment, we have converted the voters into supporters. The next stage is to convert the supporters into active members. And then active members to the Karyakartas. A Karyakarta committed to ideology is anything above.
- When the campaign was actually launched, did it have the idea of creating such a world record?
That was referred at some point of time by some leaders. But we are not here to simply pat on our back that we have become Numero Uno. This was not about any kind of oneupmanship. We have a reasonable sense of pride in that. But the objective is basically to win the hearts and cultivate the minds. It is not just adding the numbers.
- What is the objective behind extending the date of drive up to April 30?
After we launched the campaign on November 1, 2014 elections were held in several states. We know elections in Maharashtra and Haryana were just over but Party was busy in Govt formation there. Then came elections for Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Delhi. Besides, in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Assam there were several local body elections and many of us were busy with them till March 22. Obviously then some states required more time to carry out the campaign. Therefore, we decided to extend the campaign.
- Any message for the new members?
Parties can provide avenues to the members of the public to become members of the parties. But thereafter once you join a party to cultivate your political career, as an activist, as a grass roots level worker, as a representative of the Party at whatever level, in a way as spokesperson, you have to do it on your own. Party will just provide you the conducive atmosphere. That is the duty of the Party. But unless you decide that you become a soldier of the BJP, nobody convert you into that. Party will provide motivation and some minimum mechanism. Later, one has to take a call. One can only hope that newly joined members will live up to the expectations of the Party.