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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 48, New Delhi, November 13, 2021

BJP’s National Executive Council meeting: Implications for electoral politics | P. S. Jayaramu

Saturday 13 November 2021

by P. S. Jayaramu

(November 8, 2021)

The National Executive Council meeting of the Bharathiya Janata Party ( BJP) took place in New Delhi for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The meeting which was presided by the Party President J. P. Nadda was attended by the senior leaders and past Presidents like Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gatkari and others. Citing past President Amit Shashi, Nadda said the best is yet to come for the Party and set targets ahead of the upcoming assembly elections in five States. Briefing press-persons, Union Education Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan said new goals were set forth and as a measure of the Party’s preparedness, it has been decided to set up booth level committees at the 10.4 lakh polling stations by December 25th this year and establish ‘panna committees’, to take care of each page of the voters lists. BJP’s hunger for power, attention for details to grab and retain it is amazing and unmatched.

The meeting decided, quite expectedly, that the leaders at the State level, where elections will take place, will explain to the voters the manner in which Prime Minister Modi has handled the Covid-19 pandemic by ensuring tbe vaccination of 100 crore people in the country in record time, (the failures in its handling earlier were scrupulously avoided), the manner in which he is leading the economic recovery etc. It was clearly visible that the central objective of the meeting was to project Narendra Modi as the saviour of the Party and that on his shoulders would depend the future of the Party! Efforts to project Modi as the cult figure continues unabated. Sycophancy at its best. In sharp contrast, those who have raised their voices about the loopeholes in the handling of the farmers protests over the three Farm Laws, like Varun Gandhi, his mother Maneka Gandhi ( for other reasons) and Dr. Subramaniam Swamy who speaks his mind out on issues relating to the economy, have been dropped from the reconstituted National Executive Council. L. K. Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi have been retained, as they have ceased to articulate their positions in public on Party matters, as well as on issues facing the nation. Union ministers and past Presidents Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gatkari are continued as members. Former ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harsh Vardhan and Prakash Javadekar have been retained to keep them happy, while Aswini Vaishnav, the new blue-eyed boy, of Modi, has been inducted into the National Executive, making it amply clear that loyalty, not outspokenness, counts in the Party. Modi used the occasion to ask the Party workers to be a bridge between the common man and the Party. In his characteristic penchant for words, he said the Party stands for ‘Sewa’, (service), ‘Sankalp’ (resolution) and ‘Samarpan’ (dedication). The Party needs to introspect whether these ‘values’ are followed by Party leaders at all levels. In terms of political behavior, over the years, tbe BJP has ceased to impress the ordinary and discerning citizens that it is a Party with a difference. wheeling- dealing that goes on in other Political Parties is true of the BJP too.

While delivering the valedictory speech, Prime Minister Modi did not miss the opportunity to take a dig at the Congress Party. He asserted that the BJP is not a family Party. The reference was to the Gandhi family’s hold over the Party. Modi and the BJP would continue to target the family during their election campaigns in future too. Notwithstanding, BJP’s diatribes, the Congress Party has to introspect and answer the question about the Party being controlled by the Gandhis. Conduct of organisational elections and facilitating the election of a non-Gandhian as President of the Party is a service which the dynasty has to in the intersts of the grand old party.

The resolutions passed by the BJP’s National Executive Council merit analysis. The political resolution, which normally would have been moved by the President of the Party, was asked to be presented by the U P Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, an indication of the importance attached to him in the Party and as a confimation of the message that the Party is solidly behind him in the assembly elections in early 2022. If the Party recaptures power in Uttara Pradesh under his leadership, his image would get a booster dose. As is being speculated in some circles, Yogi Adityanath may emerge as a challenger to Narendra Modi in 2024.

While it is understandable that Modi’s leadership in the handling of issues ranging from Covid-19 to climate change to reducing the taxes on petrol and diesel was going to be formally acknowledged, accusing the Opposition of opportunism and acting solely with a mindset of extreme hate, by a Party and leadership, which is fanning the flames of communalism and allowing its fringe elements to do moral policing sounds both bizarre and unconvincing. In an audacious manner, the resolution said “Opposition parties never hit the road during the pandemic and confined themselves to Twitter to spread suspicion”! The Opposition should introspect and publicise what it did and is doing to counter the onslaught on it.

The resolution also talks of a chapter of “security, peace and development in Jammu and Kashmir”, alluding to the initiatives taken by the Government in the Union territory and the completion of local body elections. In reality, the ground situation in the Union territory is still marked by violence against civilians, specially in the Valley. The Union Government seems to be in a fix about carrying forward the restoration of Statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.

The political resolution was virtually silent on the three Farm Laws, the controversial issues relating to Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the military stalemate with China, notwithstanding the Government’s statements about not allowing China to succeed in its expansionist strategy on the border.

In nutshell, BJP’s National Executive Council meeting and its resolutions demonstrate in clear terms that the Party is solidly behind Narendra Modi and that the Party is largely dependent on Narendra Modi and that it would approach the 2022 assembly elections putting its electoral machinery (and power) to utmost use to reap political dividends. It’s implications for the Opposition Parties are indeed serious. They need to come together, arrivie at pre-election understanding to put up common candidates, instead of electoral taking on the BJP on heir own as that would be to the advantage of the BJP. The Congress Party should play a lead role in forging pre-and post-election understandings with regional parties. Focus should be on selection of candidates in constituencies, recognising the claims of candidates who lost narrowly against their BJP adversaries. Coming up with relevant manifestos, going by local needs and sustained ground-level campaigning will have to be handled by the Parties. The political/electoral clock is ticking.

(Author: Dr. P.S. Jayaramu is former Professor of Political Science, Bangalore University and former Senior Fellow, ICSSR, New Delhi)

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