The Uri terror attack and tough electoral battles ahead weighed heavily during the BJP’s three-day National Executive in the backdrop of picturesque backwaters and beaches. It was an emotional event for over 2,000 delegates of the party, whose earlier avatar Bhartiya Jan Sangh, had held a national council meeting here in 1967 under the leadership of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay.
The BJP maintained that it is celebrating the Upadhyay’s birth centenary, but it was evident that the party is looking at an identity beyond what was scripted by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. With thrust clearly palpable to expand the BJP’s footprints beyond its traditional catchment area, the meeting sought to find an identity in Upadhyay’s philosophy of integral humanism: uplift the last man in society’s economic hierarchy. Upadhyay’s ideology is seen in the party as a counterweight to Marxism, which enjoys traction in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura.
The NDA government headed by Narendra Modi is halfway through its tenure, and the urgency to show it is working for the poor cast a heavy shadow over the meeting. “The pro-poor political constituency had been with the Congress since the 70s. It’s incumbent upon the BJP to come up with a better pro-poor slogan, besides welfare schemes begin showing results quickly,” said a senior BJP functionary.
The party seems to be aware that unfavourable results in next year’s Utter Pradesh polls may galvanise the Opposition in the run up to the 2019 general elections. Winning Uttar Pradesh will also be key for the party to win the next year’s Presidential elections. BJP chief Amit Shah articulated the concerns by stressing that the “Garib Kalyan (pro-poor welfare)” agenda as underlined in the CM’s report be implemented in entirety within a year. The BJP’s prestige will be at stake when Punjab, Goa, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Manipur also go to polls next year.
The meeting also sought to guide the party and government to a more hawkish path in dealing with Pakistan sponsoring and exporting terrorism, besides ways to deal with the ongoing agitation in Jammu and Kashmir. “The Hurriyat will be squeezed and it’s leaders will be kept outside the purview of any dialogue with stakeholders in the state. Hurriyat leaders act under the instructions of Pakistan,” said a senior BJP functionary.
Even while national general secretaries Ram Madhav, Muralidhar Rao and Bhupinder Yadav prepared the PM’s draft speech, Modi is learnt to have conveyed to Shah that he will speak on the Uri attack on his own.
The National Executive sought to add muscle to the Modi government, besides projecting a pro-poor image of the party.
On the Sidelines
‘Probe Upadhyay’s Death’
BJP is celebrating its ideologue and former Bhartiya Jan Sangh president Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s birth centenary and is also the theme of the party’s National Executive meeting. Upadhyay was found dead at Mughalsarai station in 1968. Some claim he was murdered. When BJP’s Ram Madhav was asked whether the BJP will now order a probe into his death, he said: “Your suggestion will be conveyed to the appropriate authority.”
Advani for President?
Ever since Narendra Modi became PM, L K Advani’s presence was diminishing through photographs. But Advani’s cutout was displayed prominently at the National Executive meeting, matching A B Vajpayee’s in number. This was enough food for thought that Advani might fancy his chances for next year’s Presidential elections.
Worried Assam Chief
Sanatanu Bharali, who was appointed BJP’s Assam unit chief after his predecessor Sarbananda Sonowal became CM, is a worried man. He was calling scribes in Assam from the meeting to ask them if his assignment would continue or he would be replaced.
Sea of Saffron
The BJP is growing fast politically in Kerala and polled close to 15 per cent votes in the last state Assembly polls. Local BJP leaders were enthused about the meeting— BJP flags were mounted deep into the mighty Arabian Sea, on whose shore Narendra Modi addressed public. Kozhikode beach turned saffron with hundreds of party enthusiasts wearing lotus-shaped caps.