ON A day Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned BJP leaders against taking the Opposition lightly and being complacent in the wake of repeated election victories, party president Amit Shah on Sunday gave a glimpse into the strategy for Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls next year. It is likely to involve a strong focus on the party’s development agenda for the state, hard-hitting critique of the Akhilesh Yadav government’s purported failures, especially on the law and order front, and a soft Hindutva focus.
Like at the last National Executive meeting, Prime Minister Modi focused on the development angle. Addressing office-bearers in the morning, Modi emphasised on spreading the government’s pro-poor policies and people-friendly initiatives using social media and modern technology.
In his address to party leaders on the first day of the two-day meeting, Shah expressed “serious concerns” over allegations of Hindus being forced to flee villages of Kairana, in Shamli district of western UP, and the “increasing violence” against RSS and BJP workers in Kerala and West Bengal. He declared the party’s overwhelming support for its units in those states.
Shah’s reference comes after the party appointed an eight-member fact-finding team for Kairana, mandating it to submit a report to the BJP’s state unit on reports of mass exodus of Hindu families, allegedly “terrorised by one particular community”. Hukum Singh, the party MP from Kairana, has been raising the issue over the last few weeks; the VHP, too, has raised the matter.
Western UP had seen a spell of communal violence in the run-up to 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which the BJP had won 71 of UP’s 80 seats – the party’s best performance till date in the state.
To highlight the “deteriorating” law and order situation, Shah also mentioned the recent incident in Mathura in which 24 people were killed when the police went to move out members of a cult who had squatted on a piece of government land.
Asked whether incidents such as Mathura and Kairana would take away the party’s focus from development, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who briefed the media on Shah’s address, said, “Our foremost commitment remains development of UP. But these issues impinge upon law and order situation, which is the responsibility of the state government.”
On the controversial Ram Temple issue, Prasad said the BJP does not discuss it in its National Executive meet, nor is it part of the election agenda. “It is an issue of faith,” he said. “We have it in our manifesto.”
Quoting Shah, Prasad said. “(The year) 2017 is full of challenges for us. There are elections in UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Goa. There was a special reference to UP affairs. He said there is lack of development in UP.”
Shah also alleged that there have been incidents of grabbing government land with the support of the state government. “The exodus in Kairana is due to violence. It’s unfortunate,” he said, adding that the state government failed in handling the situation. “Lack of governance and lack of development are the biggest failure of the UP government.. For the development of the nation, UP’s development is essential, but no development can take place unless law and order is maintained.”
Shah, who urged the party leaders to start working for 2019 General Election, also dedicated a large part of his speech on the achievements of the Modi government and the party’s performance in the recent Assembly elections. According to Prasad, Shah said that the elections have been an indication of BJP’s rise in “Coromandel” group of states, or the southeasten coastal region. “It’s a happy beginning for a good future – from Kashmir to Kanyakumari (and) Kutch to Guwahati, the BJP is present,” Shah was quoted as saying.
According to the BJP chief, the Modi government has laid down “new standards of democratic accountability” in two years after 10 years of the UPA’s “policy paralysis and absence of decisive leadership”.
Listing the Centre’s performance on the economic front – the GDP has grown from 5.6 per cent in 2012 -2013 to 7.6 per cent in 2015-16, he claimed — diplomacy and bringing a bridge to connect and balance rural and urban developments, Shah pointed out that the Congress has been weakening consistently mainly due to its “repeated obstructions in the path of development”. Shah said: “The rise of BJP is not proportional to the weakening of Congress. It’s the ideology, commitment of the workers and working of its leaders that has made the BJP grow.”
A resolution on economic affairs adopted by the National Executive also endorsed the Modi government’s policies for the “poor and the downtrodden”. The resolution expressed “confidence” that as part the Central government’s efforts, “the economy will continue to grow, and with the social equality and economic empowerment there will be a transformation in the lives of the poor”.