The Shah Of The BJP

Amit Shah’s re-election, backed by the RSS, firms up the party’s 2019 strategy

Written by R. Balashankar | Published:January 26, 2016 12:00 am

While the Congress is still uncertain about who will lead the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP has taken a head start. With the re-election of Amit Shah as BJP president, it is clear that the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah team will lead the party in 2019. Shah’s personality traits tilted the decision in his favour — a man of few words, he is committed to the ideological rooting of the party, balances the party-government equation unobtrusively, and enjoys the confidence of the RSS. With the BJP under Shah, Modi has complete freedom to implement his governance agenda. The tension between government and party, which may have been seen during the Vajpayee era, is now completely absent. Shah’s re-election also marks the final generational shift in the party. The BJP is undergoing great changes in its approach, aspirations and style. Shah’s masterstroke, the “give-a-missed-call” membership drive, positioned the BJP as the largest party in the world, with 110 million members. He followed up the enrolment drive with two mass contact programmes: The Mahasampark Abhiyan ensured that everyone who enrolled was contacted in person at the local level, and the Maha Prashikshan Abhiyan sought to educate all workers on the core issues of the party — ideology, mission and goal. With this, Shah has reinforced the campaign slogan that the BJP is a “party with a difference”. Added to these is his plan to modernise all party offices up to the district level. This modernisation drive envisions a hi-tech party office with a library, reference facilities, connectivity and lodging. He also has plans to increase the circulation of party publications in all languages. His tenure is going to be marked by outreach and consolidation. The new blood the party has attracted in the past one year is certain to propel it forward in its efforts to regain power in the 2018 state and 2019 general elections.

Under Shah, a large number of RSS pracharaks have joined BJP work. He has ensured better coordination and understanding with various sections working among students and farmers, as well as in the labour and Swadesi movements. This has ensured that various sections of the parivar are represented and listened to — both in party and government. The BJP is emerging as a true mass-based cadre party. Under Modi and Shah, the party has made significant electoral gains, winning four new states. In a way, the defeats in Bihar and Delhi cannot be construed as losses, for the party was not in power in those states. Shah has turned the BJP into a fine electoral machine. His goal — and that of Modi and the BJP — is clear: A Congress-mukt Bharat. Politically, Shah has left opponents guessing his next move. While he pushes for “ekla chalo” in states where he believes the party is strong, he does not hesitate to forge alliances where the party is not strong enough. His target is to take the BJP to new frontiers. The most immediate challenge before Shah is the Assam election. The Congress is making desperate efforts to hold on to power there. But the BJP is making deft moves and going for the kill. Each forthcoming state election poses different challenges and presents various opportunities for the BJP. Strategies for each state will have to be crafted with sharp political skill. Not only for the party but also for Modi and for governance, these states are important. With the Congress deciding to oppose the government at any cost, the BJP needs to win electorally and politically. It is here that the balance between party and government becomes most crucial. The RSS has reposed complete faith in Shah. Otherwise, it would not have been as smooth a re-election. There was speculation that Shah may not be re-elected after Bihar, especially with party elders vocalising their scepticism. But the RSS kept mum, indicating that it did not support their dissent. To his credit, Shah maintained his cool. He did not react or do anything to escalate the situation. With almost all senior party leaders in government, Shah has a free hand to redraw the BJP according to his needs. His team, when announced, will give a clear signal as to the future plans and course of the party.

 

The writer, a former editor of the ‘Organiser’, is national convener of the BJP’s intellectual cell