NEW DELHI: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked into the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting on Thursday, he was given a standing ovation by fellow MPs just as they had in Parliament on Wednesday. He paid them back in kind: "Na baithunga na baithne dunga (I won't sit, nor will I let you sit). That set the tone for the PM's speech to his cheering lawmakers in which he laid out a punishing road map for the Lok Sabha election in 2019.
Of course there's the small matter of choosing the chief minister of UP first. It's been five days since the results of the elections but the new CM of the state won't be chosen until Saturday, when the BJP legislature party will meet. Party president Amit Shah said Keshav Prasad Maurya, the UP party unit chief, has been tasked with the head-hunt but then the man himself is one of the aspirants.
Shah’s remarks sent the media running to Maurya, and the BJP UP chief was apparently taken aback. Asked if he continued to be the front-runner, Maurya quipped, “How can I choose myself for the post?”
The exertions of the day got the better of Maurya and he checked into the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital with high blood pressure. Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu and BJP general secretary Bhupinder Yadav will attend the Saturday meeting and midwife the birth of a new leader.
That apart, the Parliament Party meeting was notable for the Prime Minister's shifting of gears for the 2019 election and the rhetoric with which he hopes to win a renewal of his mandate.
He announced a slew of programmes towards that objective. Coming up first is a Foundation Day programme on April 6 in which BJP leaders will reprise their Swacch Bharat routine. This will be followed up with a week-long celebration of Ambedkar's birth anniversary in every panchayat and ward starting April 14. Further along, there is the third anniversary of the Modi government on May 26, to mark which BJP MPs will spend 72 hours reaching out to the people.
The pitch for the Ambedkar vote was strongly evident in Modi's speech. The Ambedkar week will see BJP workers pushing the Bhim app for digital payments, and turning into evangelists for the downtrodden.
Shah on his part said that the mandate in the Assembly elections was against corruption and caste-based politics. He mede it clear that BJP MPs should gear up for the next challenge in 2019.