Amit Shah eyes 350-plus in 2019 General Elections: BJP chief in Bhopal to take stock of state unit's preparedness

With a target of 350-plus seats set for the 2019 Lok Sabha election, BJP chief Amit Shah's immediate task, over the next three days, is to evaluate the performance of Madhya Pradesh BJP, as the state goes to Assembly polls in 2018.

Shah, who arrives in Bhopal on Friday, is on a three-day visit to take stock of ground realities across the state, assess the performance of ministers, MPs, MLAs and party workers, collect feedback and discuss strategies to chalk out a blueprint on how to proceed for the Assembly polls and allocate responsibilities.

The Madhya Pradesh government and the state BJP unit have ensured a grand welcome for Shah, right from his arrival at Raja Bhoj airport in Bhopal to his visit to Deendayal Parisar, the state headquarters of the BJP. Banners and large cut-outs of Shah have been put up across the city of lakes.

File image of BJP chief Amit Shah. Reuters

File image of BJP chief Amit Shah. Reuters

As Shah prepares his party's blueprint for the next Lok Sabha polls, he doesn’t want to take Madhya Pradesh lightly, even though it's a BJP stronghold. In the last Assembly election, in 2013, BJP got 165 seats – 22 seats more than the 2008 election. The saffron party has been in power in the state since 2003 after it defeated 10 years' of Congress government under Digvijay Singh as the chief minister.

The 2018 Assembly election result will certainly impact the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in terms of BJP's winnability. The BJP is likely to face anti-incumbency waves, given issues like farmers' distress and the Vyapam scam.

The farmers' agitation that erupted in Mandsaur and led to widespread violence across the state in June, has emerged as a major concern for the BJP. It got reflected in the recently held municipality polls in the state.

In a bid to prepare a 'fool-proof' winnable strategy and working plan, Shah's three-day marathon session will begin at Deendayal Parisar early on Friday, with a meeting with office bearers of the central BJP, core group members of state BJP, MPs, MLAs, district party presidents and heads of various cells and bodies of the party in Madhya Pradesh.

Shah has set a target of travelling one lakh kilometres across the country, to cover all the states and union territories in 110 days. Madhya Pradesh is the 19th state, as per his travel schedule. After a series of back-to-back meetings, he will attend a dinner at ex-minister Narottam Mishra's place.

But, much before Shah's arrival in Bhopal, the Opposition Congress has already started questioning the former's dinner programme at Mishra's residence, in an attempt to whip up a controversy out of it.

"BJP president's programme to have dinner at Narottam Mishra's house speaks of the party's double standard, which on one hand advocates for zero-tolerance on corruption and on the other hand protects its corrupt leaders," the Madhya Pradesh Congress alleged.

A former minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, Mishra has been disqualified as a legislator by the Election Commission for using paid news in his election campaign and not furnishing proper accounts of his poll expenses.

Shah's visit to Mishra's residence would strengthen the latter's position within the party. It's anticipated that Mishra would be given a prime role to play ahead of the Assembly election.

"If Narottam Mishra is given importance and assigned any new role, it'll be due to his organisational skills. During the Uttar Pradesh election, he was in-charge of Kanpur and he performed well. Even, in the recent local body polls, BJP won the Dabhra ward in Gwalior for the first time in the last 70 years due to him," a BJP source said.

Sources further said that Mishra might be the next state BJP president, as the present chief Nandkumar Singh Chauhan's tenure is coming to an end.

Right from Chouhan to party workers and office bearers, all are keeping their fingers crossed in anticipation of the outcome of Shah's review meetings, especially the one with the members of the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet after the dinner. A one-on-one meeting with the ministers could also be on the cards.

The report card of every state BJP leader based on the review of the individual's performance, feedback from various sources, winnability factor and the leader's image in public will act as parameters in the selection of candidates for the forthcoming Assembly election.

"Before he goes for a meeting with ministers, MPs and MLAs, the party president is backed with data based on complaints related to corruption and other charges being received by the PMO and BJP's central leadership," a senior BJP leader said.

According to sources, Shah is expected to review the results of the local body election vis-à-vis the party's performance, in which the Congress stood at 15, up from nine, and the BJP dipped by three, from 28 to 25.

On 19 August, Shah will have a series of meetings with the core group and various organs of the party to take a stock of the implementation status of various central and state welfare schemes. It'll be followed by a luncheon meeting with seers and religious heads at the chief minister's residence. Post-lunch, Shah will address a press conference.

As 2017 is the birth centenary of political ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya – the former president of Bharatiya Jana Sangh – Shah will have a meeting on 20 August with the members of the core group and office bearers of the working committee looking after the centenary celebration.

Besides official engagements, the BJP chief will participate in a number of public events and discourses during his three-day stay in the state capital.

His active presence in Bhopal also means a show of strength by the state BJP, as the ruling party doesn't want to leave any opportunity to overpower the Congress, which is already on a weak wicket due to internal conflicts.

"There are strong anticipations that three Congress MLAs will join the BJP. One of them could be the present deputy Speaker Rajendra Singh, who's a relative of former chief minister Arjun Singh. An independent MLA from Sehore, Sudesh Rai may also join BJP in Shah's presence either on Friday or Saturday," a party source claimed.

Updated Date: Aug 18, 2017 12:24 PM

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