BJP gets battle ready with Modi, surgical strikes and demonetisation in its arsenal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma and two of his actions taken in the closing months of 2016 — Indian Army’s strike across the Line of Control (LoC) at terror launch pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and demonetisation — make for a recipe for success for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Assembly elections scheduled to take place between February and March.

The proceedings of the two-day national executive meet of BJP in New Delhi is a clear pointer to that. To that add the party’s pro-poor tilt or Antodyaya, a term championed by its foremost ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhaya whose birthday it is celebrating, and the BJP leadership feels that its public narrative to seek yet another popular endorsement for the party and Modi is complete.

A major part of party president Amit Shah’s speech and the political resolution passed at the meet are focussed on those same issues.

Narendra Modi. PTI

Around the time when one thought that demonetization was the singular most important issue, agitating public mind and creating political discourse, Shah got back to talking at length about strikes across LoC, an action which inflamed passion and had swung national mood to assertive nationalism.

If with the passage of time, people forgot Rahul Gandhi’s khoon ki dalali charge against Modi and Arvind Kejriwal’s demand for submission of proof by the BJP government for strikes across LoC, the BJP leadership made a conscious attempt make these a part of the electoral discourse. Remember, how popular passion had flown high and both Gandhi and Kejriwal had to face the brunt of popular opinion for making such undesirable remarks.

Out of five states which are going to the polls, with the exception of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP and Congress are pitted against each other in Goa, Punjab, Manipur and Uttrakhand. The Aam Admi Party is making the fight triangular in Goa and Punjab. Now, the Indian army connect is very strong in Punjab and Uttrakhand and Uttar Pradesh has seen the arrival of coffins of martyred soldiers due to terror attacks and firings along the LoC.

The BJP, however, is conscious of keeping referring to the valor of the armed forces. Its political resolution said “the surgical strikes executed with utmost precision by our armed forces have shown to the world that India is led by a government today that is committed to securing its borders and interests with determination and will power. The national executive congratulates the prime minister and his other concerned ministerial colleagues for the bold decision of responding appropriately to the terror tactics of our recalcitrant neighbour. We salute our brave soldiers for valiantly fighting and laying down their lives to secure our borders and honour. That the strikes have had the required effect on our neighbour can be gauged from the fact that there is near normal silence on the Indo-Pak border in the last few weeks".

Both Modi and Shah are aware that demonetisation (and its actual and potential impact) is the biggest talking point in the country. As such it would be guiding people's mind — how they have been impacted and whether or not their lives would be impacted in times to come — when they go out to vote between 4 February and 8 March. It was thus important to fill them with confidence and feed the gathered party leaders with enough talking points so that they could lead the charge on behalf of the party in their respective areas. Shah talked about 75 approval ratings in various surveys that the party or other agencies conducted.

What is interesting to note is that the BJP is not shying away from letting these elections be called a referendum on demonetisation. It is in fact propping such debates. After the results of the civic agencies polls in Chandigarh were announced, Shah had called it an endorsement of Modi’s demonetisation move. On Friday, he spoke of it in his presidential address at the national executive meet of the party.

This formed a major chunk of political resolution. It said that the BJP has registered convincing victories in the by-elections held for the Lok Sabha and different Vidhan Sabhas in states like Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh. Its performance in Left-dominated Tripura, where the BJP is slowly but surely emerging as a credible alternative to the Left front, pushing back parties like Congress and TMC, can’t be overlooked. In Bengal too, the Party has weathered the brute politics of the ruling party and has emerged as a strong runner-up in the recent by-polls.

The Party has registered a thumping victory in the local body elections held in states like Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. The BJP’s landslide victory in Chandigarh Municipal Corporation elections needs a special mention where it almost swept the polls winning 21 out of the 26 seats. It needs to be remembered that most of these elections were held after the announcement of the demonetisation scheme by Modi. It is not an overstatement to claim that the results are a vindication of the unqualified popular support to the demonetisation programme.

Even though the BJP's overconfidence and pre-poll exuberance have been counter-productive at times, it does not stop the party from displaying that over excitement, yet again.

It is worth noting that the year 2016 has been a very successful for the BJP. It made inroads in the North East by winning Assam with a thumping majority and in the closing days of December, 33 MLAs from the PPA in Arunachal Pradesh, including the chief minister, opting to join the BJP. The party is rejoicing Khandu’s landing in the BJP for Arunachal becomes the 10th (getting in double digit) state ruled by BJP and the 14th ruled by BJP alliance.

Will 2017 will be as good as 2016 for the BJP? Well, one has to wait until March 11 when the votes for the five states would be counted, to know that.

Updated Date: Jan 07, 2017 15:56 PM

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