From invincibility in 2014 to vulnerability in 2015: BJP seeks consolidation in the new year

New Delhi: If 2014 was the year that gave wings to BJP's ambitions as it rode on the 'Modi wave' to form its first majority government at the Centre, 2015 showed up the limits of its electoral strategy pivoted around the prime minister's charisma as it suffered massive defeats in the Delhi and Bihar Assembly elections.

In 2014, BJP could do no wrong; and in 2015, it came off worse in virtually every contest.

Not only in elections but as often on politically-sensitive issues, ranging from key bills like land, and controversies over the beef row in which it was seen by many to be acting too little too late. The year 2016, after two years of highs followed by lows, will be a time for stability and consolidation for BJP, its top leaders believe, as they think that the party has not much stake in four of the five states going to the polls, and can pull off a win in Assam.

Criticised for undermining local leaders and running a top-down campaigns in Delhi and Bihar, the party has revised its tactics in the poll-bound states by changing its state chiefs in three of them and virtually projecting Sarbananda Sonowal, a well-regarded Assam leader, as its chief ministerial face in the northeastern state.

 From invincibility in 2014 to vulnerability in 2015: BJP seeks consolidation in the new year

Representational image. AFP

A defeat in high-stakes Bihar poll triggered first real challenge to party chief Amit Shah as veteran LK Advani, who has headed the organisation on more occasions than any other leader, was joined by three other seniors in bringing Shah's leadership style into question. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were sidelined from the party's key executive affairs and put in 'margdarshak mandal',
which has never met since its inception.

Their second meeting on the very day after party MP Kirti Azad was suspended for his attack on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, has fuelled speculation over their next move, more so as Shah's tenure ends next month. Though a sense of inevitability exists in the BJP about Shah getting a fresh term — since the RSS, which has always had a say in its key organisational matters is also seen to be backing him — Advani and co have been able to raise some uncomfortable questions.

Shah's hands-on, quick and assertive manners are seen as a departure from the practices of previous party bosses who believed in collective approach and sought consensus even if it delayed the decision-making. A party leader said the BJP chief had spent more time in his office or travelling states in building the organisation in a year than some of his predecessors did in their entire tenure.

He put down the questions over his functioning to "generational issues" and that some seniors have refused to move on with changed times.

The only consolation for the party in 2015 was that the Congress, which remains its most formidable rival, has not shown many signs of a revival, according to party sources. However, resurrection of JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar from the lows of his party's defeat in 2014 and the rise AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal meant that there was little comfort for the BJP from the poor state of the Congress.

An organisational high for the party in an year of electoral lows was that it claimed to have emerged as the world's largest political party by enrolling over 11 crore members through its innovative 'missed call' membership drive. Party leaders said the drive resulted in it having 15 lakh active members, a new feat, and that it has enough numbers in any part of the country to run a visible political campaign.

By 2016-17, BJP plans to have an office in each of the district and a well-equipped office in every state.

PTI

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Updated Date: Dec 30, 2015 13:08:28 IST