Sangathan (organisation), Sangharsh (fight for the cause) and Samrachana (cohesiveness) – these are the three directional principles of the cadre-based Bharatiya Janata Party. Amit Shah, the master strategist, knows all too well how to carry them forward. His astute poll management has yielded results for the BJP in successive elections.
Presently the party rules 16 of 29 states, covering 70 per cent of India’s geographical area and 60 per cent of the population. But like Robert Frost’s poem, Amit Shah wants the BJP miles to go. That is precisely the reason, during his presidential address in the recently concluded National Executive Meet in Bhubaneswar, Shah had declared that the golden age of the BJP would dawn when the party would occupy every level of legislature – from Panchayat to Parliament.
Leading from the front, the BJP president is currently on a marathon 110-day-long whirlwind tour across the nation. The tour coincides with the Modi government’s celebration of three years in office. Shah’s voyage, which started on 25 April, will end on 25 September, the 101st birth anniversary of party ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay.
Amit Shah’s tour across the nation will focus on taking stock of the party’s organisational strength, further expansion of ideology and electoral appeal.
So far, the BJP president has covered two states – West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir. In West Bengal, Shah has given the clarion call to party workers for Ebar Bangla (Now Bengal) to “liberate” the state from Mamata Banerjee’s misrule and recreate a Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal). At Jammu, Amit Shah has urged the party workers to spread and strengthen the spirit of nationalism in Kashmir.
The BJP president has already prepared a blue print for the party’s big win in the 2019 general elections. Amit Shah wants the victory should be bigger than that of the 2014. In the 2014 general elections, the BJP won 282 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats on its own. This time, Shah has set a target of winning 400+ seats. Apart from retaining every Lok Sabha seat the party won in 2014, the BJP president has identified 120 winnable seats where the party had lost in the last Lok Sabha elections. During the course of his nation-wide tour, Shah himself is seeking special feedback on these 120 Lok Sabha constituencies.
The Master Plan
For the purpose of election strategy, Amit Shah has earmarked all the 29 states and seven union territories into three categories – A, B and C – in accordance with their electoral significance. The BJP president is spending three days in category-A states, two days in category-B states and one day in category-C states. The category-C states are those being ruled by the BJP. The category-A states are those where the party had failed to win in 2014 Lok Sabha elections despite a groundswell of Modi wave and now, Shah senses the potential for a turnaround in 2019. There are four states in special focus in BJP’s scheme of things – West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana and Kerala. These four states contribute a total of 102 Lok Sabha seats.
In West Bengal, there are a galaxy of issues – Saradha chit fund scam, Narada sting, communal appeasement and anti-Hindu politics – plaguing the state. The BJP is going to use them as its trump card to checkmate Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in 2019. In Odisha, Naveen Patnaik is staring at a strong anti-incumbency. In the last Pachayat elections, the BJP succeeded in making a giant stride in Odisha politics, leaving Patnaik’s BJD in a tailspin. With renewed hope and new vigour, the BJP is sanguine about riding a saffron surge in the land of Shree Jagannath. Similarly, the party wants to paint the Red bastion Kerala – where party workers and RSS swayamsevaks are repeatedly being targeted by the ruling CPM cadre – in saffron. In Telangana, the BJP is getting ready to contest the 2019 elections on its own.
The brief from Amit Shah to party’s organisation is clear: The preparation for 2019 elections has to be micromanaged. During the course of the ‘intensive outreach campaign’, the party will take the success story of Narendra Modi government to the people.
For the booth-level strengthening exercise in the run up to the 2019 elections, the BJP has already roped in around 3.52 lakh volunteers who would work full-time for the party for anywhere between 15 days and a year. Moreover, the party is also reaching out to its 11 crore primary members enrolled during the massive membership drive in 2015-16 and will involve them in booth-level activities.
Further, the party has enrolled another 600 full-timers. Of these 600 full timers, 543 will be assigned one Lok Sabha seat and are tasked to supervise strengthening of the party and creating a winnable environment in 2019 elections. The remaining 57 will be tasked with overall electoral responsibility of a cluster of five constituencies each where the party has traditionally been week.
Political writer, policy observer.